Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Grade: C
Director:  Rick Alverson
Written by: Rick Alverson, Gregg Turkington, Tim Heidecker
Cast: Gregg Turkington, Annabella Lwin, Michael Certa, Tye Sheridan, John C. Reilly, Mike Hickey
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 11/2/15
Opens:  November 13, 2015

“Entertainment” the movie with the year’s most ironic title so far, could have been named “A Man on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”  The movie could serve as an allegory for Everyman, at least for every man and women who have reached their forties and now realize that they will never accomplish the greatness in their fields that they dreamed about.  Or even in a broader context, the film could stand in for all those of us who do not like their jobs, or who despise those with whom they have to work.  We who go about their lives may realize either over the long haul or in an instant of epiphany that the world is absurd and what we human beings are doing makes no sense.

Sounds good so far.  A philosophic film that is about as anti-formulaic and original as the James Bond films are predictable, by-the-numbers, and derivative.  Nonetheless “Entertainment” will not only be shunned by general audiences but possibly avoided even by those who are discerning moviegoers.  The picture, directed and co-written by Rick Alverson, whose “New Jerusalem” is about a man returning from Afghanistan who is befriended by an evangelical who promises to redeem his fragile persona, is likewise about a fellow with a similar existential problem.  He is known simply as The Comedian (Gregg Turkington) and is played virtually without a smile directed with long pauses by the hangdog principal character that will frustrate those who believe that movies should move.

Filmed in several California areas, most depressing being the parched land near Bakersfield where a small group of tourists are listening to a deadening commentary about the search for oil, “Entertainment” often serves as a fly on the wall, looking in on third-rate watering holes with sparse audiences who do not laugh at the alleged jokes of The Comedian and neither will you.  An opening scene finds a buddy, Eddie (Tye Sheridan), a mime who entertains diverse groups from a prison crowd to the aforementioned taverns, and whose red nose attachment and spastic, chicken-like dancing gets a rise now and then.  He can even get the inmates to clap along with him.

Not so The Comedian who, contrary to the traditional advice given to comics never to announce “this is a joke” goes ahead and delivers his alleged humor with a deadpan expression that is probably more a sign of his depression than an attempt to enact dry humor.  Such fare as “Why, why, why, why do rapists not eat at T.G.I.Fridays? (pause) “Because you can’t rape with a stomach-ache.”  Now only is the gag  unfunny.  We wonder why his shtick must include the obnoxious repetition of the word “why.”

Wearing round, oversize glasses, The Comedian trudges about the most desolate parts of the state of California, in one case giving his night-club audience hell, blaming them for not appreciating the fact that he has traveled long and far to allow them to escape their troubles at least for a while. (Actually, he adds to their problems by his delivery and his poorly-written gags.)  I suppose we in the movie audience are to realize that co-writer-director Alverson and scripters Gregg Turkington and Tim Heidecker, are showing us a man who is not only far from witty but is at his own wit’s end.  His ultimate breakdown is therefore made credible, but “Entertainment”? this is not.  Strictly for a cultish audience.

Rated R.  102 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C
Acting – C
Technical – C+
Overall – C


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *