Monday, January 30, 2017
Somewhere around the year 2000, Robert De Niro's appearance in a film stopped being a sign of promise and became a flashing yellow light. Every now and then he's still part of an intriguingly complicated film like the ones he's made with David O. Russell, who used the actor's truculent skepticism to challenge Jennifer Lawrence's screwball optimism and sheer life force in Joy and Silver Linings Playbook. More often than not, though, De Niro's characters suggest 3D men in 2D universes, like the funnyman at the center of director Taylor Hackford's flabby and formulaic The Comedian.
Jackie (De Niro), an insult comic best known for a crappy sitcom he starred in decades earlier and reduced to playing little clubs in uncool zip codes, would be on a fast track to nowhere if it weren't for the fact that he continues to star in viral videos that boost his visibility and win him a whole new demographic. In scenes full of painfully unfunny shtick, he mooches off his brother (Danny DeVito), spars with his sister-in-law, Flo (Patti LuPone), and meets cute with the ironically named Harmony (Leslie Mann), a train wreck of a woman with nearly as much free-floating hostility as Jackie. She also has some major daddy issues, which she offers up, in a typically expository chunk of dialogue, to explain why she's attracted to a man who's old enough to be her father. Though their shared love of acting out also fuels a courtship that consists largely of doing things like getting thrown out of Jackie's niece's wedding while Harmony and Flo exchange full-throated fuck yous.
Read the rest in Slant Magazine