director: Rick Alverson
opens December 5th
Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, Ottawa
This, without a doubt, will be the toughest watch of 2015.
Terrible stand up comedians have their place, and can offer entertainment value in some form or another. Enter Greg Turkington, who as his alter ego Neil Hamburger has been mastering the craft of truly unremarkable, offensive, deplorable, mundane stand-up comedy, for decades. It is a disconcerning experience, watching an uncomfortable, struggling bomb go off on stage. There is heckling, there is groaning, there is long awkward silences, there is confusion, there is laughter, and sometimes, there is mayhem. Neil Hamburger is not for everyone. The act is a performance art piece, that relies heavily on crowd response, whether it be indifference, warmth or explosive hatred.
It is a tough act to pull off on the big screen.
Instead of documenting this bizarre phenomena, “Entertainment” uses the Neil Hamburger experience as the centerpiece in a hazy, dreamy, mind and road trip that mixes equal parts Antonioni and Lynch. Filmed super wide, it revels in deserted expanses, adding extra bleak factor to the snail paced non-action. It just feels weird.
Shit happens, but seems irrelevant to any story line. John C. Reilly and Michael Cera pop in for oddball cameos, but leave no marks. Hamburger (unnamed for some reason) trudges across wasteland deserted towns to perform before indifferent crowds, with predictable results. Much time is spent on the between gig down times.
Is this a joke? Is this art? Is this a movie? Is there anything to “get”?
What it is, is a truly unsettling and painful experience for everyone involved, especially you.
That may be the point.
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