Saturday, 13 October 2012

LFF: The Comedian Review

Director: Tom Shkolnik

Starring: Edward Hogg, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Elisa Lasowski

Plot: Following one man’s struggle in an unfulfilling job, a romance without much spark, and a comic career going nowhere.

With first features there is always the possibility of seeing fresh, unique and talented writers and directors. Sadly, for Tom Shkolnik’s The Comedian barely any individuality shines through. The cinéma vérité style desperately advocated by Shkolnik in this film harms its chances at looking special by inadvertently acting as a reminder to better films in the same style (The Wrestler, Shame or Half Nelson).

There remains throughout the film a burning question of how this could ever be advertised as a comedy. The title alone is barely given any attention and two scenes of protagonist Ed performing parts of his routine are unforgivably short. The Comedian does begin with brief moments of dark humour but eventually forgets that entire form in favour of a straight-up hard-hitting drama.

The unremitting presentation of hardship is often affecting yet only with the accompaniment of dialogue. Shkolnik seems to think emotion and tension is created through lingering shots of the banal; the art-house picture it wants to be is a direction Shkolnik should never have tried to embrace. When the writing is good it warrants every bit of your attention and moves the story along with great pace. Unfortunately, these moments of insight into the characters (acted out with great skill and zeal from the three leads – all deserving of acclaim even without getting the opportunity to dazzle as much as they could) are smothered by silent scenes showing blurred lights and mute characters.

Edward Hogg as the titular “comedian” has tremendous charm, wit and personality and whilst this film could propel him to stardom it is a below average movie to help with any such promotion. His scenes, mostly those shared with his gorgeous flatmate Elisa (played by Elisa Lasowski) and his patronising boss, are electric when Hogg takes charge over the script. The relationship that evolves between Ed and a young man, Nathan, he meets on a bus (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett of Misfits fame) could have equally interesting verve were it not for strange and questionable conflicts. One major scene of Ed, Elisa and Nathan on a bus being verbally abused by three naive and cruel teenagers is a telling example of how engaging and thought-provoking the film could be. What’s more, the final scene, mostly played out through colloquial conversation, helps the film regain some strength before erasing it all once more by dissolving into another display of pretentious imagery. As the film finishes with little resolve it makes it seem like a fruitless examination of a complicated individual faced with multifaceted dilemmas; a decent story executed very poorly.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

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