The Comedian

Jackie (Robert DeNiro) played a beloved sitcom character at the very beginning of his career, and it seems his fans only want to remember him for that one thing. He’s a stand-up comic now, desperate to rebrand himself, but audiences turn nasty the further he pulls away from his more iconic stuff. So in the style of hot-headed comedians, he allows a heckling fan to draw him into a fight, and of course it’s Jackie who winds up sentenced to community service (among other things).

At the soup kitchen, he meets fellow assaulter Harmony (Leslie Mann), an otherwise 2-h_2016docile woman who is pushed to do violence when she finds her man in bed with another woman. This unlikely pair bonds over their mutual sentence, and agree to do each other a solid: she’ll attend his niece’s wedding with him – he owes money to his brother (Danny DeVito) and his sister-in-law (Patti LuPone) never quits breaking his balls – and he’ll attend a birthday dinner for her disapproving father (Harvey Keitel).

After decades as an insult comic, Jackie is looking to reinvent himself, but the people in his life keep him from doing so. DeNiro trained with real-life comic Jessica Kirson, who also appears in the movie. DeNiro adopts one of her signature moves, in which she whispers to herself while turned away from the audience. Lots of other comedians lend an air of authenticity to Jackie’s world: Brett Butler, Billy Crystal, Jim Norton, Gilbert Gottfried, Hannibal Buress, and more. Unfortunately, the comedy is just about all this movie gets right. I’m not even sure what kind of movie it’s supposed to be: some sort of May-December rom-com? Aging comedian comes of age? Light social commentary?

It doesn’t matter because it doesn’t work on any level. It feels dated, immediately. Cringe-worthy at times. It’s bloated, meandering, and has some pretty bizarre and inexplicable subplots over which I’m still scratching my head. It’s misguided. It’s tired. It has its charming moments but then there’s also a song about poop so I’m just not in a forgiving mood. DeNiro’s choices lately are a betrayal to his talent. Remember him as he was, not as he appears in this stinker.

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14 thoughts on “The Comedian

  1. raistlin0903

    I really don’t understand what some of my beloved actors are doing these days. DeNiro, Willis and Pacino haven’t really appeared in anything really worth watching the past few years, and that truly is such a shame 😢

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  2. J.

    Yup. Robert DeNiro is a parody of Robert DeNiro. Ever since that fucking Meet the Parents thing.

    You write there that the character “is looking to reinvent himself, but the people in his life keep him from doing so”. Pretty much sums up DeNiro… trying to reinvent himself as a comedic lead, but those around him are saying “for fuck sake, Robert…”

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  3. Christopher

    At least one thing hasn’t changed about DeNiro: he’s still very dedicated to preparing for a role. The problem is he doesn’t prepare for all the things he should. When he did Bloody Mama he went to the location three months ahead and was correcting the dialogue coach. Then, in a scene where he had to drive a car, it turned out he couldn’t drive.
    He still does a lot of preparation but can’t steer himself to the right projects.

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