Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim and James Murphy in "The Comedy"… (Courtesy of Tribeca Film )
Rick Alverson's "The Comedy" is part of a recent spate of indie films that might be loosely referred to as the Cinema of Annoyance, movies that often dare audiences to continue to watch as increasingly uncomfortable situations unfold.
Opening on the drunken high jinks of a group of Brooklyn friends, the film focuses on the character of Swanson, who seems a tad too old for his layabout lifestyle. Projecting an obnoxious exterior, Tim Heidecker gives a self-lacerating edge to Swanson's passive-aggressive contrarianism.
Swanson lives on a small boat, harassing cabdrivers and taking a job as a dishwasher in his spare time. His studied insincerity functions as a shield against the emotional impact of his father's looming death and the life-altering reality of the fortune he stands to soon inherit.
Heidecker brings a startling depth to his performance, tapping into a rich pathos that is the unexpectedly serious mirror-inversion of his work as part of the abrasive, oddball comedy duo Tim and Eric. (His comedy partner Eric Wareheim has a supporting role, as does LCD Soundsystem leader James Murphy.)
After a pivotal encounter with a young woman (the haunting Kate Lyn Sheil) Swanson seems somehow renewed, Alverson and Heidecker bringing his pot-bellied pilgrim's progress to a conclusion that is provisionally positive, the character heading at last in a direction akin to maturity and self-understanding.
"The Comedy." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. At the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, Los Angeles.