AFI Fest 2016 Review: The Comedian
The Comedian tells the story of an aging comic, Jackie (Robert DeNiro) who is trying to keep his career afloat many years after his sitcom has ended. After a heckler in the crowd gets the best of him, he ends up in prison and is assigned community service. While doing his community service, he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann). Their friendship becomes closer and more complicated until Harmony moves to Florida to live with her father.
The casting in the film is spot on and perfect. The chemistry between the characters works so well and is so natural. The timing and back and forth between the characters is great. The performances by everyone in the film are incredible with such conviction and dedication. When you first think Leslie Mann and Robert DeNiro, it seems to be an odd combination, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. They both bring out the best in each other and have an undeniable chemistry on screen. There are some great actors who appear in the film as minor roles, but really add great character to the film.
The film takes place in New York City, and it is so real. This is the everyday experience of New York City with the rain and the snow. It isn’t the perfect Hollywood version of New York City, but the everyday hustle and bustle. The shots they use are so natural and realistic to show the craziness and variety of the architecture. They show the Friar’s Club and the soup kitchen, and the fancy restaurants and the shops under the train line. New York City is a character in this film, and they treat it is as such.
Jackie and his brother (Danny DeVito) don’t always see eye to eye, but they have an intense and realistic relationship. Their banter and back and forth during the film is so real and reminiscent of my interactions with my family. They are perfect together and play off each other well. Flo (Pattie LuPone), Jackie’s sister-in-law, is an interesting character dynamic with Jackie and his brother.
Some scenes in the film stand out above the rest. Jackie gets invited to his niece’s wedding and gets convinced to do a bit on stage, which enrages his sister-in-law. Following the speech, he and Harmony try to leave and his brother and sister in law follow. Harmony and Flo start attacking each other verbally, and it is hilarious and very intense. It was like watching a real argument and just left me speechless at how natural it felt. Another great scene is when Jackie does an impromptu show at an old folks’ home in Florida. It is something incredibly funny, but something I never expected to see Robert DeNiro do.
The writing in the film is sharp and witty. In a film like this, it is great not to be able to tell which scenes were improv and which were scripted. The film is so well-crafted and well-loved that is shines through. The Comedian is non-stop laughs combined with real character development. This is how it is done, Hollywood. Robert DeNiro shines in this hilarious and realistic call to stand up comedy.