This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
No Chorus’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Likely the best musical since Repo: A Genetic Opera.
This is the kind of fiction people should make about comedians instead of the standard "please be surprised when I'm metooed" prestige tv stuff. They are terrible and profoundly boring people, the child is a prop, any tragedy they experience is a logical extension of how comedy is now solely about how unfair and sincerely stupid things are rather than jokes, how when they get what they want the premise collapses, how aspiring-to-be-hurt people hurt people, how a mentality based on self-worship and disdain means that the idea of actual talent repels them, finding themselves at the end of a career spent chipping at way at the self grasping and bullying for approval finding no interiority to explore, the sudden need to be serious with nothing to say, the whole lot.
Also good observations made about Sparks by this film: they have like three things they do repeatedly to be eclectic but they're good tricks so people don't mind, they make fun of you for liking them, their music demands you cede all control of context to them, they need you to lap up the smartest guys in the room. They're just like comedians, right down to having some undeniable moments of narrow genius, which is why the make so much sense here.
Bill Hicks and Tom Lehrer are explicitly quoted in the opening stand-up set, just in case you didn't get it (the most pompous shit Hicks has ever pulled and the most sneering and Lehrer ever got too). That's where the film can fall down a bit, for something with such visual flair it's a little too much hand-holding.
Made me think a lot about how Bernie Mac's I Ain't Scared Of You Motherfuckers bit on Def Comedy Jam is the only explanation of how good stand-up is being a conduit (there's a conductor in this as well, of course, who dies with Henry's conception of himself as a creative, just in case you didn't get the joke) and not fucking half-microwaved rogan-ic manifesto. Also made me think a lot about how Bill Burr's infamous philadephia set at that Opie and Anthony event is the rosetta stone for the last 20 years of marc maron brain rot that has made comedy much more fetid and puny than anyone imagined it could be.
(Feel the need to say that I really, REALLY, liked both all stand-up comedy and Sparks when I was a teenager. I still have some tiny embers of affection for stand-up and know I'm being quite hard on Sparks because they released a 140 minutes edgar wright sepia self-suck like 2 months ago)
Driver teeters on the brink of likeable while being a crass shithead throughout which helps sell all of this. He's like a fassbinder bit player, aware of how he's being draped on every scene.
There's a couple of shots in this, striding through the airport while hands bang silently on glass which is eventually echoed by the hands on the police van, that really remind me of Welles. So too does Driver's sung narration which has the Welles' former Radio Master thing of getting a little bit too close to the mic and a little bit too familiar so he's inside your head.
There is a shot of a wolf in this that is easily my favourite shot of this year if not much longer. It's clear the wolf is the very thing to which comedians aspire, in reality so misunderstood by them they become their exact opposite. It's the most beautiful shot in a really beautiful film.
I loved how monstrous the audience looked too, chortling guffawers are always the most jarring parts of filmed stand-up, especially when it smash-cuts to the demographic being mocked to signal it's okay (more of a UK stand-up thing I think), so it was great to see them rendered so strangely.
Also: perfect that Ehrlich likes the bit where they explain the joke to you, the tiny desk concert/av club cover videos shit, but hates the rest.