As an underground comic who has floated around for decades, Neil Hamburger (Gregg Turkington) probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind for a starring vehicle. It all comes down to who you know as Tim Heidecker and Rick Alverson conspired with Turkington and made a film simply called “Entertainment”.
Our story follows The Comedian (Turkington) as he tours around the most desolate and dusty parts of the American Southwest as his alter ego Neil Hamburger. He is joined by Eddie (Tye Sheridan), a mostly non-verbal clown who usually wins over audiences with sheer stupidity and repetition. All the while, the Comedian is searching for something of meaning and significance in life.
Right off the bat, your enjoyment of this will be roughly measured by your appreciation for ‘The Comedy’. Much of the tone is similar since it comes from the same filmmaker though this is decidedly funnier, yet also darker. While this story has a bit more going for it, we are still left with a series of vignettes that don’t quite equal a plot. The monotony and general aimlessness of endlessly performing on the road without making any progress is a big theme.
Strewn throughout the film, we get snippets of scenes that could very well have been ripped from a David Lynch film. This doesn’t quite payoff by the end, but it does seem to give the impression of watching dreams and a psyche that is crumbling before our eyes. That was probably what this was going for, but it’s honestly hard to tell.
An interesting detail that can surely provoke a good deal of discussion involves the unseen daughter that The Comedian calls at various points throughout the movie. He always leaves a message and can never seem to connect with her. Does he really have a daughter or is that an imagined product of an unbalanced mind? Is that meant to represent the turmoil a life on the road inflicts upon one’s family? Again, these are all just theories. There are no easy answers.
Turkington is great as not only his Neil Hamburger character (longtime fans will recognize most of the jokes), but as a form of himself off-stage. A pivotal moment in the film really pulls back the curtain on the performer/character relationship. The scene in question does give some closure to the narrative buildup, but it feels like it betrays what we know and like about the character. John C. Reilly has some fine scenes but most of the other cameos: Amy Seimetz, Michael Cera and David Yow, specifically, all come across as cameos that are there for brief, odd encounters. They contribute nothing directly to the film’s progression but surely are there to help cause The Comedian’s further mental deterioration.
Special features include: deleted/extended scenes.
If you want a straightforward comedy, “Entertainment” is not it. It is a bizarre fever-dream through the desert. You might enjoy it, but to the uninitiated, proceed with extreme caution.
Add an extra half star to this.
Rated R 102 minutes 2016