Friday, February 3, 2017

The Comedian with Robert De Niro and Leslie Mann

Robert De Niro gives a great performance as Jackie Burke, a washed up stand-up comic best known for his early days on a sit-com, one that he hates revisiting. De Niro is very funny and comes across realistically but still maintains the tough guy personality that only he knows how to do. I have wondered sometimes about De Niro's recent choices in scripts (see the Heist and Killing Season) and whether or not he still had the edge (see The Intern) but this role has an old flare to it, bolstered by the presence of Harvey Keitel, Danny DeVito and Patti LuPone. It is very hard to go wrong with that cast.

Lelise Mann holds her own among them as Harmony, Burke's female interest, giving her funniest and most authentic performance since her stints in early Judd Apatow movies like the The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Her father Mac (Keitel) is eccentric, wealthy and dissatisfied with her involvement with Burke, setting up a conflict that fuels the humor throughout.  Watching the dialogues of Keitel and De Niro one can't help but think of Taxi Driver and the personalities these actors have established for so long.

Burke continuously pushes his calm as a cucumber agent, Miller (played by Edie Falco), to find him steady work as he subjects her to angry breakdowns in front of potential audiences for his comedy.  But he will not compromise, refusing to do any other type of comedy than what he is used to---that of being an asshole with a vulgar mouth.

An underlying and important theme of this movie is the unorthodox trajectory that an entertainer goes through in order to make it in Hollywood today. From sit-coms to celebrity conventions to performing at old-folks homes to a funny but VERY brief stint on a reality show, Jackie never fails to get laughs, be provocative and push the envelope, ultimately using the omnipresence of social media to his advantage in order to stay in the game.

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