Watching the trailer for Entertainment—director Rick Alverson’s followup to his disquietingly deadpan The Comedy—produces an unsettling mix of emotions. Pathos, confusion, and deeply cynical amusement all coexist in the spectacle of watching comedian Gregg Turkington, as a real-life version of his character Neil Hamburger, performing stand-up to a series of increasingly depressing rooms in remote Southwestern locations. There’s more than a little bit of desperation in ”The Comedian’s” existence, including some very defeated-sounding phone calls to his daughter and scenes of lonely contemplation in front of mirrors and in bleak desert landscapes.
Completing this despair-filled ensemble cast are The Tree Of Life’s Tye Sheridan as a suspiciously upbeat clown; Michael Cera, screwing on his serious-drama face; and John C. Reilly, a frequent collaborator of co-writer Tim Heidecker. If anybody’s in on the joke, he is. The A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd found that joke only fitfully amusing at Sundance, saying Entertainment “interrogate[s] [Turkington’s] specific brand of anti-comedy, finding a layer of deep melancholy beneath it,” but that “the film hits the same note of deadpan depression over and over again, until shock calcifies into boredom.”
The alt-comedy answer to Funny People premieres in select theaters and on iTunes on November 13.