Movie review of “Entertainment”: Rick Alverson’s first feature is a sporadically successful cross between performance-art-like confrontation and twilight mysteries reminiscent of classic David Lynch. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
“Entertainment” is, at different times, compelling, sketchy, exhausting and borderline visionary.
This sporadically inspired feature by Rick Alverson is like a cross between a vintage, squirm-worthy Andy Kaufman performance and classic, ominous David Lynch. It is not fun, but its confrontational style yields dividends.
A rambling road movie with a loose, chapter-by-chapter feel, “Entertainment” is uncomfortably anchored by a traveling, unnamed comedian (Gregg Turkington) who is horrible at his job and, more troublingly, losing his mind.
Movie Review ★★½
‘Entertainment,’ with Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Michael Cera. Directed by Rick Alverson, from a screenplay by Alverson, Turkington and Tim Heidecker. 90 minutes. Rated R for language, sexual material, drug use. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.
Offstage, Turkington’s character is a pained observer, reticent to talk and increasingly in some kind of private hell. He drives from one gig to another in the Mojave Desert, performing for prisoners and at tiny clubs.
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Onstage, he adopts a boorish persona as a rumpled, greasy-haired monster whose shtick is vile, unfunny riddles. Heckle him and he launches into appalling, obscene tirades that don’t let up.
Punctuating the action are the comedian’s loving, unanswered phone messages left for an unseen daughter (does she exist?).
“Entertainment” has trouble gaining early traction as a viable story, despite a good effort by John C. Reilly as a cousin sympathetic to the comedian’s fringe career.
Things pick up as the antihero’s existential distress coincides with his Lynch-like series of portentous encounters: with a needy stranger (Michael Cera) in a roadside restroom; with a pregnant woman alone and crying out from labor pains; with a group of men doing some tribal dance.
Alverson explains none of this, but he casts a spell with the film’s cumulative mystery and wonder. He has talent; now he needs a better story.