The Comedy isn’t exactly a comedy film – and it’s not exactly a ‘film’ in the traditional sense either. It’s an art film with a capital ‘a’, and it’s also an exercise in irony with a capital ‘i’. From the title on down, The Comedy is incredibly self-aware, meta, modern, post-modern, and any other adjective that could be bandied about by trendy hipsters. However, it’s also an indictment of that same hipster crowd. The Comedy is a film for hipsters, by hipsters, criticizing hipsters. In other words, it’s pretty damn hip.
Tim Heidecker, of Tim and Eric fame, stars as Swanson, an aging trust fund hipster who’s father is on his death bed. Swanson spends his time drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and riding around on vintage bicycles with his other hipster friends (Tim and Eric cohort Eric Wareheim, and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy). Together, they do inappropriate things, make offensive jokes, and do their best to generally disrupt people’s lives. Basically they are spoiled brats being dicks to people. These characters, coupled with a virtually non-existent storyline, will make this film a tough slog for the majority of audiences. However, for those who can get on board, the film has its merits and works as a meta-critique of rich, white, New York hipsters.
The Comedy is a character study of an unlikeable, but oddly sympathetic person. Heidecker is surprisingly good in a dramatic role – and I’d like to see him do more drama in the future. Heidecker plays Swanson with such a painful underlying sadness that it almost makes you forgive his awful behaviour. Swanson likes to provoke people purely out of boredom – and, it seems, in a vague attempt to feel something. Here is a man so bored and detached from the world that he is willing to put his own safety at risk in order to feel something.
As stated, there really isn’t much of a story to The Comedy. The film is mostly a series of vignettes filled with sadness, awkward humour, and static shots. Any time a character or a situation pops up that seems to introduce an obstacle or goal for Swanson, it quickly disappears. This movie is like Swanson: adrift in melancholy and irony. This is not a film for everyone – and not even for most Tim and Eric fans. The Comedy is difficult. It feels like a John Cassavetes film made by self absorbed hipsters. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely not something for the masses.