Michael Bergeron
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“The Comedian” + More

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Multiple threads emerged during a screening of The Comedian. As directed by Taylor Hackford this Robert De Niro starring dramedy unfolds with a keen eye towards social media while the gaze focuses on basic relationship issues.

De Niro plays an aging stand-up comic who’s more known for his role in a television sitcom than his status as the titular comedian. Immediately you are transfixed by the possibility that this is somehow an arm of Scorsese’s King of Comedy, a 1982 flick where De Niro played a stalker want-to-be-comedian that kidnaps the host of the most popular late night variety show.

But The Comedian is never that kettle of fish, until the mere moments that it is. There’s also the game of De Niro’s greatest hits with cameo appearances from Harvey Keitel, Charles Grodin and Billy Crystal. How often have I watched the Grodin-De Niro film Midnight Run and wished they would act together in a film again? Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Edie Falco and Lois Smith co-star.

Jackie (De Niro) can’t get a booking to save his career. At the suggestion of his agent Jackie plays to a half full audience at a dive comedy club. When a heckler gets out of control Jackie bashes the loudmouth with his microphone. Even though Jackie gets a one-month sentence in jail for his outburst the video of the confrontation goes viral. This is one of three videos that go viral during the course of the movie. I won’t spoil the other two viral vids but suffice it to say that one takes place in an old folks home and involves continence.

Jackie works the room with insults, like a mean spirited Don Rickles. Jackie has this thing he does where he covers his eyes with his hands and talks to the audience like he’s channeling his subconscious thoughts. Very funny stuff.

Jackie meets cute with Mann at a soup kitchen where he’s working off his 100-hours community service and this leads to some cracking of the stiff exterior that he uses to insulate himself from the world. Likewise Mann has some issues and her interaction with Jackie opens up her character’s charm to the audience.

Perhaps a most likeable coda that ends the movie goes a long way in establishing the journey of Jackie’s late-life resurgence. We all have a third-act just waiting to burst forth.

Also On:

  • Neruda from director Pablo Larrain (Jackie) follows the trail of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) also a senator who goes on the run after a political election puts his opponent in control of Chile. A fictional detective played by Gael Garcia Bernal chases Neruda over mountains and through snow bound border crossings to little effect. Lots of food for thought especially in light of current political realities. Neruda opens exclusively at the downtown Sundance Cinemas Houston.
  • A Good American documents whistle blower Bill Binney who with his team of NSA super computer geeks developed software named ThinThread. ThinThread, which adhered to concepts of privacy while tracking internet and cell phone data, would’ve prevented 9/11. The ladder of corruption climbed by NSA officials, all of whom are named, that A Good American depicts is surely a wake-up call to free thinking viewers. A Good American opens exclusively in NYC and LA this weekend with a roll out to other top twenty markets cities in upcoming weeks.