Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reviews of 'Entertainment'

At The Bijou's 'pre-premiere' of 'Entertainment' at The Byrd.
Left-to-right: Terry Rea; Rick Alverson; Gregg Turkington;
James Parrish. Photo by Oz Geier.
Ed. Note: Thanks need to go our to all the volunteers and friends of The Bijou who helped to make the Nov. 8, 2015, event such a success and so much fun. More on that aspect of the story will be posted soon. The story of making the Hamburgers is in the works. 

In the meantime here are some reviews of the film, comments on the event and a few photos. More photos are on the way, too.

Photo by Oz Geier.

I Could Go On and On: 
What's the Difference?
by Karen Newton
Richmond was even cooler than usual tonight. That's because the Bijou was hosting the premiere of 'Entertainment,' former Richmonder and director Rick Alverson's latest movie, at the Byrd Theater. It was yet another well-chosen fundraiser on the Bijou Film Center's cinematic path to their own building. Any way you look at it, it was a big deal for us to get the film shown here before it premieres in New York City...

If scoring the premiere of an important up and coming director's work and exposing Richmond film fans to a true indie movie (there are no gimmes or easy answers in this one) is what the Bijou Film Center will be all about, Richmond's film-loving set ought to be wishing they were doing a fundraiser a month until they get their building.
 To read the entire review click here.

Photo by Oz Geier.
"Entertainment" Review 
by F.T. Rea

"Entertainment" (2015): Color. 110 minutes. Directed by Rick Alverson. Cast: Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera.  

The film's protagonist is an abrasive comedian who hurls his absurd material at small audiences in bleak dives in forgotten towns. The laughs come more from the situations than the jokes. Between gigs the nameless comedian -- played by Gregg Turkington and billed as The Comedian -- is frequently shown as a passive observer of what sights he encounters traveling through the desert -- sights such as an airplane graveyard. 

Clearly, he is detached, but from what? Alone in cheap motel rooms, he talks to his estranged daughter on the phone. Does she exist?  

As odd as some of the characters appear to be, they feel real -- painfully real. As it mocks our expectations, "Entertainment" is a compelling odyssey. Occasionally, it's laugh-out-loud funny, but check your expectations at the door.

For viewers who've enjoyed the rather unconventional work of directors such as Robert Bresson, Luis Buñuel and David Lynch, Alverson's new flick could be about to shoulder its way onto their top ten lists. Love it, or hate it, "Entertainment" is a bona fide "art movie." 

Although Turkington wears his familiar Neil Hamburger stand-up comic get-up, his performance in the movie isn't exactly the same as his live show. Within the film The Comedian is darker. He seems unsure and paranoid. For most of the film he's killing time between his dutiful performances. Still, we lack the context to know how crazy the protagonist was last week, or last year. He appears to be unraveling before our eyes. How much of it might be a dream is hard to tell.  

Trying to guess specifically what Alverson wanted the audience to make of the film's ambiguities might be fun for some viewers. The mysteries of "Entertainment" can and should be explored in conversations over beers, coffee, but solutions won't be easy to find.

The memories and lessons of an odyssey aren't necessarily the same thing as answers. Why, why-y should we expect movies to have answers?

Photo by Oz Geier
"Entertainment" Review 
by Peter Schilling Jr.

The opening line of Rick Alverson’s Entertainment—“How is everybody feeling?"—is certainly a good question to ask any audience member after witnessing this bizarre and challenging film. The story, such as it is, of a unnamed comedian (played by Gregg Turkington) wandering from gig to gig through the American Southwest, plays at times like some of antagonistic Antonioni films, with long, steady shots, broken at times by circular conversations and people struggling to find some meaning, or… none at all.

Though our comedian has no name in the picture, on stage he is Turkington’s alter ego, Neil Hamburger, who approaches each set like some strange throwback warped by time and distemper. Hamburger mats down his thinning hair into crazy, almost seaweed like strands across his vast forehead, sports a lousy tux, and sucks on a cocktail while cradling two others in his right arm while he grouses into the microphone in his left.

An evening with Hamburger means a night of nervous laughter and perplexed gaping, and I found myself almost doubled over in laughter from some of his jokes. He stands, clearing his throat (and how he musters up that much phlegm on cue is beyond me), before ripping into baffling jokes with lusciously vile punchlines, such as asking us why Madonna fed her child “Alpo brand dog food?” Because that’s all that comes from her breasts, apparently. From there it’s E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial and his penchant for blow jobs, haranguing any patron who dares walk out or raise his or her voice, or just two minutes of blowing wet raspberries. Hamburger is a master of thought-provoking discomfort, and the scenes of his stand-up comedy are brilliant.

The problem with Entertainment ultimately lies in its narrative frame. The comedian is roaming the southwest, in nameless little towns, at nameless little bars and lounges and restaurants, doing his spiel to nameless people who sit wondering why he’s there. Usually he follows a young man who wears a bowler and a clown face, and pretends to masturbate and shit in his hat. Along the way, he meets a cousin (played by John C. Reilly), gets punched by a young woman he insulted, helps deliver a baby, and calls his nameless daughter frequently and late at night.

Yes, you did read “helps deliver a baby”, and that scene, which doesn’t work for a minute, reflects Entertainment’s major problem: if you’re going to ask us to take this emotional roller coaster, then we have to feel like these people are real. In all of Alverson’s prior work, his characters were real, and so honest it hurt to watch them on screen, such was their misery, their pain, their self-deception, and, sometimes, their grace and kindness and strength. But inEntertainment, people like the comedian’s cousin are such clichés they derail the movie—Reilly’s pro-business dialogue is so rote you almost expect him to say “One word: plastics”. And to reduce a great actress like Amy Seimetz into a drunken wretch who has no dignity and can only express herself by punching our hero is ludicrous. Then there’s Dean Stockwell, who stands around in the background of one scene and has no lines. There’s simply no point to that at all.

Ultimately, though, the story is Turkington’s, and he runs with it, probing the depths of self-loathing that must attach itself to the life of any comedian, not to mention one as acerbic as him. Strip this film down to this one man, staring into a mirror, silent, turning over the night and probably his every failure in his head, and that is when Entertainment is as riveting as any movie I’ve seen.

Photo by Ric Bellizzi.
Village Voice: 
The Harrowing 'Entertainment' Puts You in the Tux of America's Worst Comic
by Alan Scherstuhl
"Like grad school or that cave in The Empire Strikes Back, what you get out of Rick Alverson's bold and desolate Entertainment depends on what you put into it. It's less a film you watch than a breakdown episode you try to get through, a bottomed-out desert lulu that manages to make its 110 minutes pass like the worst month of your life. It's slow, seamy, pained, sometimes hallucinatory, a dismal sort of fantasy camp for anyone who might like to tour the Mojave's diviest bars as a depressed and detested stand-up comic, sleeping in a car and passing out on the floors of rest-area bathrooms..."
Click here to read the entire review.

Photo by Ric Bellizzi.

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