Comedians, much like the saying goes, have the ability to turn a frown upside down, which can then convert it into laughter. They can do this because of their first-hand experience with pain, hardship, and disappointment in their lives.
In the new film, “The Comedian,” Robert De Niro tells the story of a comic after the lights have gone out and the audience has left. De Niro takes on the role of Jackie Burke, who is an aging insult comic that is near the end of the career.
While trying to reinvent himself, the public holds him back. They remind him on a daily basis of his previous success while starring on a fan-favorite television show, "Eddie's Home," and often call him by his TV name.
Things then go from bad to worse when he punches a heckler with a microphone at a comedy club. Burke is sent to jail for 30 days and given community service. While working off his time at a homeless shelter, his life seems to take a turn for the better when he meets a woman also working off her probation at the shelter.
"The Comedian" is a film that had a lot of potential to it based on the preview and trailer. It seemed to have that spark that would create something different among a sea of movies audiences have seen in several different ways.
Parts of “The Comedian” are well-written and enjoyable to watch. As a person who has seen a lot of stand-up comedians perform live, the scenes where De Niro is in the comedy clubs or working with an audience flows naturally on screen and he seems to be comfortable in Burke’s skin.
Danny DeVito plays Burke’s brother, Jimmy Berkowitz, and serves as one of the positive elements in the film. The combative relationship that the two have with each other has an authentic and genuine feel it to it.
One scene that demonstrates this is when Burke gets out of prison and asks his brother for money. Burke says, “I have lost a lot of gigs because of what happened and Miller’s (Burke’s agent) rebooking them, but I am kind of tapped out.” To which Berkowitz responds “You have got a lot of F***ing nerve. I don’t see you. I don’t hear from you. I have got to read in Google news that you got arrested. Am I nothing to you? Is my family nothing to you?”
Other parts of the film don’t seem fit well together and keep “The Comedian” hobbling along to the end. It almost felt like drinking a bottle of soda that had lost its snap and gone flat. While it still has all the properties of a caffeine-filled drink, you can tell that something is missing.
One of those elements was the casting of Leslie Mann who plays Harmony Schiltz — Burke’s romantic interest. Mann is known to audiences for quirky roles in comedies like “This is 40,” “Orange County” and “Big Daddy.” In “The Comedian” Mann seems like a second option the director made when the first choice was not available.
Overall “The Comedian” is a good film, but it is not a great one. It leaves a lot of potential on the table. This movie is a limited release. The only two theater is playing at in area is at Cinemark Movies 16 located at 220 W. Westchester Parkway in Grand Prairie and the Angelika Film Center located at 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane in Dallas.
I give “The Comedian” three out of five mustaches.
This film is rated R for crude sexual references and language throughout and runs 120 minutes.
Follow Andrew on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AndrewBrancaWDL or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AndrewBrancaWNI. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 469-517-1451.