The last time we saw Tim Heidecker on a movie screen, he was cutting up with his comedy partner Eric Wareheim in the outrageous, intentionally offensive “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.”
What a difference context makes. Heidecker returns in “The Comedy,” and while this movie also contains much that is outrageous, the tone and effect are entirely different. A noodling indie effort that cuts with a scalpel, “The Comedy” looks at a moral vacancy that lurks within the constant ironical joking that courses through both movies.
Wareheim is around in this movie, too, as part of a circle of guys who hang around, drink and one-up each other in deadpan absurdity. Some of which is funny, and some of which is revolting — but the eeriest thing is, as the movie underlines at a couple of points, how the guys apparently don’t have anything to say to each other when they’re not placing ironic tongue in cheek.
Heidecker plays the son of a wealthy Brooklyn man, and thus has enough money to pass his days wandering through the city or sitting on his sailboat in New York harbor. The father spends the movie in a coma, a situation that is just another excuse for the son to crack wise (or crack gross) at the man’s bedside.
In a series of dazed scenes, Heidecker’s pot-bellied put-on artist either casually insults his friends and strangers or inserts himself into real-life situations that he has no business in, like working as a gardener or dishwasher, or bullying a cab driver into letting him take the wheel for a while.
He never says as much, but some desperation courses through every scene in this movie, as though the character’s practiced hipster pose has left him so stranded from human contact that he must bulldoze his way into a semblance of feeling. To outrage is to connect, except there’s no actual connection made. Just the outrage.
Director Rick Alverson never pauses to explain his purpose, or even to locate us in a strictly chronological order for this saga. In a normal movie, there’d be a moment of self-awareness or change, but that’s not going to happen here.
So “The Comedy” is a weird experience. I get the serious purpose; Alverson and Heidecker are exposing a certain super-cool attitude that has frozen the feelings of this group of hipsters. The movie’s rampant unpleasantness makes this a difficult premise to sit through, even as it is a mark of the film’s integrity.
“The Comedy” (2½ stars)
An aggressively unpleasant indie study of a rich thirtysomething hipster (Tim Heidecker) who wanders from one offensive situation to the next, perhaps in search of something that will trigger a semblance of feeling. The movie has a point, but it’s so gross that it’s a tough slog to sit through.
Rated: Not rated; probably R, for nudity, language, subject matter.
Showing: SIFF Film Center.