The Comedian: Jews, good and bad

Sometimes the stars align, and guarantee that things will fail.

Stars do that? Hm, Shakespeare did say something, that the fault, dear reader, is not in our stars. I don’t think he was talking about casting, no not that sort of star. He meant more like Mercury retrograde or whatever astrology does to ensure you get bad reviews.

And why do some films do so well if not some planetary push? But truly I feel lucky, that the stars –meaning celestial influence– are making miracles.

The timing of the film I saw tonight is serendipitous, thank you stars (both the kind from the sky or from Hollywood).

  • I saw a commencement address by Helen Mirren shared on Facebook today. She refers to “Taylor” a couple of times, and I wondered who she meant. It’s her husband of course, Taylor Hackford, who’s directed some wonderful films (An Officer and a Gentleman, White Nights, and Ray for example).

  • I’m seeing the opening of Bad Jews tomorrow, a comedy about family dynamics and you guessed it, the family is JewishBadJews_900x500_FINAL_rev
  • After a glass of wine I noticed a video sitting beside the TV that my wife purchased namely The Comedian
  • And lo and behold I noticed that the director was none other than Taylor Hackford
  • And as I started to watch it, I discover that the comedian–played by Robert de Niro– is supposed to be Jewish.

Surprise surprise! A film about comedy featuring Jewish family dynamics.   Not only does tonight’s film feel like a perfect prelude to the play tomorrow, it also happens to be the most enjoyable film I’ve seen in ages.

But why haven’t I heard about The Comedian?  What happened? When I look at the internet I see that it opened in December of 2016 to bad reviews, and so it vanished without a trace. And yet on the small screen in my house this was a film that I need to watch again: because we missed lots of jokes due to our uncontrollable laughter. When I think of the funniest films I have ever seen, they also hit me that way. For example The Producers or Superbad required multiple viewings because the laughter was so loud as to cover some lines that couldn’t be heard the first time. Even on the second or third viewing there were big laughs.

The Comedian is several things, and they’re all good.

It’s a film with a jazz score by Terence Blanchard. If you hate the film you can still listen to it.

It’s a film with moody cinematography that transports you instantly to its locations. I don’t know how they did it, seguing from one place to another with an exterior shot to evoke the sensations and feelings of distinct parts of New York, or of places in Florida that I can’t claim to know.

It’s a film with a very good cast.

Robert de Niro plays a Jewish comedian, Danny de Vito plays his brother, Harvey Keitel plays a mobster, Leslie Mann plays the mobster’s daughter. Can you say “playing against type”? De Niro and de Vito play Jews, while Keitel –who is Jewish by birth at least—plays an Italian.

If I were to attempt to describe the type Leslie Mann usually plays it would be as a sweet-voiced appeaser, someone who is always apologizing in that whiny voice. But she meets de Niro’s comedian while doing community service, as both of them are in anger management.

And there are other wonderful cameos, such as Cloris Leachman, Billy Crystal, Charles Grodin, and Patti Lupone just to name the first ones that come to mind.

Everybody in this film is nuts, which is another way of saying, the story and the situations are totally relatable, lovable, enjoyable. If you’re not laughing you need to check for a pulse.

But when I watch the trailer I see immediately how it could have shot itself in the foot. The joke you get right off the bat in the trailer between Jackie (De Niro) and his brother Jimmy (De Vito) sounds offensive out of context.  See for yourself,  when Jimmy says his child is getting married and Jackie says “I thought she was a dyke” and Jimmy corrects him,  “you say ‘lesbian!'” No wonder no one came to see a film sounding so bigoted and ugly.

Yes it is abrasive. But the trailer gives you none of the good –the brilliant humour– just an immediate impression of negativity.  Yes there is anger in this film but there is also brilliant wit and catharsis.

It’s a thrill to discover a movie that seems to be flying under the radar, that deserves another chance. I hope the word gets out on this one, because it’s not just okay, it’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a very long time.

It’s a natural preparation for the play I’m seeing tomorrow.

This entry was posted in Cinema, video & DVDs. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s