There was no film more ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ at Sundance this year than “The Comedy” (currently playing in select theaters nationwide and available on VOD). Indiewire’s Eric Kohn, for one, loves it. In his glowing review from Park City, he wrote: “There’s little conventionally funny about ‘The Comedy,’ but its status as a provocation is a grand joke. Director Rick Alverson (‘New Jerusalem’) has made a one-of-a-kind portrait of pathologically insecure and overpriviledged hipsters, crafting the finest awkward-bizarre character study since Ronald Bronstein’s ‘Frownland.’ The first brilliant maneuver is its casting of Tim Heidecker as the supremely unlikable lead. Best known as one half of the irreverent comedy duo from ‘Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!,’ Heidecker embodies a supremely obnoxious Williamsburg resident committed to wisecracks, regardless of whether or not anyone laughs. Usually, they don’t — and neither do we. That’s the point.”
Below, Alverson shares on his favorite scenes from the film.
The scene was written as a playful, adolescent and mostly innocent indiscretion for the men, but set against something that has a gravity and severity they are disconnected from in every way. The important word was “tourists.” I wanted to stress the novelty and foreignness of a sacred place to them and also the waning reality of the church as a social power. It was mostly important to illustrate their curiosity; that an ironic field trip to a cathedral is inevitably laced with an actual desire to interact with that place, however deeply that may be submerged in the sacrilege.
There is a very important moment when the group diverges and Swanson, Tim’s character, meanders off alone, however briefly. He sits and, for a moment, is objectively just a man in a pew in a church, his mind wandering as one’s mind would in that place. He sees the bodies in the front of the cathedral, occupying their space. That was the important transition. It shouldn’t need to be overwrought, it is a simple fact of place and silence. Those moments in the film are not without considerable importance. They are more appealing to me as humanizing elements than a face racked with tears and regret.
Initially the scene was much longer, and contained a protracted meditative moment with all the men. The camera panning across their faces much like it does at the slide show near the end of the movie. Then it showed the faces of the paritioners. I liked it very much and both my co-editor Michael Taylor and myself would have been happy with a 3 hour cut. It is difficult to say how those moments would change the film, what they would offset in some other place. Ultimately I opted, like with much of the movie, to tuck those humanizing ambiguities in the shadow of the louder irreverence. I wanted them to strike us only briefly, knowing that many people many not see them. To appease that instinct in a viewer for the obvious humanization and redemptive moment would have been to betray the thing, and let us walk away as assured as we have become accustomed to being in our consumption of media. Assurance is a dangerous thing in movies.