The Comedy: Rich Hipster Assholes

11/14/2012 4:00 AM |

The Comedy
Directed by Rick Alverson

The title describes not the film, though it’s often darkly funny, but the main character’s life, which he lives as a kind of meta satire of life itself. Played by Tim Heidecker (of the Awesome Show), he’s a 35-year-old idly wealthy Williamsburger, spending days drinking beer with his friends (including Eric Wareheim and James Murphy) or playing work, which is an alien experience for him: he pretends to be a landscaper and tries to get the homeowners to let his crew use their pool; he pretends to be a clerk at a store; he pays off a cab driver to let him helm his hack when he’s hammered. It’s all a joke, a mild thrill.

He has no responsibility, no investment—he’s apathetic, he’s bored. In short, he’s like a child. When we see him frolicking at the end with a kid at a beach, it’s not sweet or poignant: it underscores how terribly juvenile he is. In fact, he and his friends are worse than children, because they have no parents or guardians to keep them in line. During a visit to a Catholic church one afternoon, they make fun of everything, sing goofy songs, horse around, all while people pray sadly around them. It’s like epic performance art in which everyone’s a prop, everywhere’s a stage, every conversation’s a joke.

Playing into this FTW behavior is his aggressive emotional unavailability. A subtle sadness suffuses the shenanigans, a testament to writer-director Alverson’s talent, to the way a self-pitying longing not to be lonely shows through the character’s antisocial actions—the way he pushes everyone away. In an African-American bar, he asks the patrons where he can get “some black ass”; he tells a coworker (ubiquitous indie darling Kate Lyn Sheil) he’s a convicted rapist and registered sex-offender; he says to a woman at a party, “I’m not a Nazi, but I think Hitler deserves a little credit.” This is a character portrait of an astonishing narcissist and nihilist, both strange and fascinating, not so much an indictment of the one percent as a sad glimpse of the deformed rich.

Opens November 16