When I walked out of a press screening of The Comedy this summer my cheeks were burning and I avoided eye contact with the other writers and critics who had been in the theater with me.
It wasn’t the kind of social awkwardness that happens when you run into someone you publicly and embarrassingly made out with. It was more like that grade school sense of shame when you’ve been mean to another kid in a way that you instinctively realize was wrong, but your emotional and moral development doesn’t yet allow you to articulate why you feel like such an ass, even though your gut lets you know in no uncertain terms. I felt complicit in something really ugly after watching this movie.
There are critics out there saying The Comedy is a brilliant satire, a spot-on, scathing indictment of all that is wrong with hipsters, Brooklyn and young privilege. I didn’t find it smart or funny, I just found it deeply cynical and mean spirited.
Tim Heidecker, who you may recognize from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, and the director, Rick Alverson, will be at BAM this weekend, doing an audience Q&A after select screenings of the film. Heidecker plays the main character, a 30-something trustfunder living in Williamsburg. He, often accompanied by a gang of similar ne’er-do-wells, slouches through life making fun of churches and cab drivers, his neighbors, his family and the nurse who cares for his rich, dying father. There’s one scene in which he sits watching blankly as a girl he’s brought back to the boat he lives on (presumably tied up in an East River or Newton Creek slip) has a seizure. It’s one of the oddest, most uncomfortable moments I’ve ever been subjected to.
I would rather watch Biodome starring Pauly Shore than sit through The Comedy again.
It’s not just that it wasn’t to my taste. The timing of this movie seems really wrong. As I’ve said in the past, making fun of ridiculous glasses, artisan everything and ill-fitting vintage jeans is still fairly entertaining to pretty much everyone in Brooklyn. There’s not a shred of compassion in The Comedy though, and after watching so many New Yorkers, of all ilks, hipsters very much included, shuttle hot meals, diapers, batteries and water bottles to the Rockaways, Staten Island and Red Hook for the past two weeks, I find this movie even more troublesome. I know plenty of people with questionable fashion sense, more than my share of artisan pickle and jam makers, and plenty of weird artists. I don’t know anyone with the callous disregard for other humans that is The Comedy’s central premise.
To be fair, the film clearly doesn’t try to capture the neighborhood or presumably, its denizens, in a realistic, recognizable manner–it’s more like Hipstertown, U.S.A. There are a few scenes where, if you know North Brooklyn at all, Heidecker and company get into a cab, and then exit somewhere that’s is supposedly far away, and is in reality just a few blocks from where they started.
It’s like the filmmakers are daring the viewer to say “Hey! That’s not accurate, that’s not how the neighborhood is, that’s not who we all are,” just so they can point out all the satirical, clever elements we didn’t “get” when we watched it. And what could be more of a hipster dick move than that?