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'The Comedy' needs better material: ★

Michael Phillips

November 22, 2012

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If it weren't for Kate Lyn Sheil, who has a couple of scenes as a blase Brooklyn waitress inexplicably ending up in the protagonist's bed, "The Comedy" might well have qualified as the worst film of 2012. This portrait of the desultory white male as failed improviser stars Tim Heidecker, one half of the semipopular duo with Eric Wareheim (on TV, "Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!"; on film, "Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie"). Wareheim shows up here as well, as one of the Heidecker character's PBR-swilling pals. But it's Heidecker's show, intended to take things in a darker direction that he has traveled before.

His character, Swanson, lives on a boat. He is waiting for his father to die to collect an inheritance. He blobs his way through life, taking a dishwashing job here, berating a cabby there. None of the scenes pay off, and I suppose that's deliberate: This, the writers and director Rick Alverson appear to believe, conveys the state of a certain breed of modern disaffected slacker. Then Sheil (so good in the recent "Green") shows up, and Swanson impresses her with his Nick Nolte impression, and it's almost funny. Heidecker has a cold, dull stare and a flat affect that could be used effectively in the right material. This is the wrong material. It is an improv exercise strictly for those who believe improv is easy.

No MPAA rating (language, nudity, drug use)

Running time: 1:36

Plays: Friday-Thursday at Facets Cinematheque.