Knowing a bit about Neil Hamburger, and seeing this called “anti-comedy,” I skipped it at the time. Now, after Alverson’s great The Mountain (and seeing Neil in concert telling one of my favorite jokes of the decade), I’m catching up, and… maybe I was right to skip this. I dunno, you’ve got Neil’s whole thing with the dirty jokes, Alverson’s patient formal construction (this time super-widescreen instead of 4:3), Tye Sheridan as a clown – it’s more academically interesting than it is a joy to watch.
Gregg Turkington is on an increasingly sad comedy tour through the desert, stopping in each town between gigs to take whatever local tour they’ve got, then to call his kid, promising he’ll get home. He visits cousin John C Reilly who offers advice on Gregg/Neil’s choice of onstage subject matter: “If you wanna appeal to like, all four quadrants, you know like all the different age groups… semen and all that… it’s a little bit much.” After a heckler attacks him post-show and breaks his glasses, he descends into a deeper nightmare than the one in the movie I just watched called The Nightmare.
Jagjaguwar logo in the credits – composer Robert Donne, whose drone soundtrack was a bit much (so it fit in perfectly here, where everything is a bit much) was in their band Spokane with vocalist Rick Alverson! To get onto Turkington’s wavelength, I watched an episode of his show On Cinema with Tim Heidecker, which I will definitely watch more of.
Posting these out of order, but I watched this right after The Nightingale, making for a 4:3 double-feature – perverse, since no screens are shaped like that anymore. Tim & Eric and Neil Hamburger aren’t in this, so it seemed like a good starting point, and damn, now I need to watch Alverson’s other four features. In fact, I might need to watch this one again, since I suspect Denis Lavant’s big speech at the end should’ve had subtitles.
Doctor Jeff Goldblum tours hospitals, with a former patient’s introverted semi-orphan son (Tye Sheridan of Ready Player One) in tow, performing lobotomies with a seemingly low success rate. Sounds like a real drag, so I can’t explain why I loved it – the squared-off compositions, the bleak period-postcard look, Goldblum, Udo Kier as Tye’s late father, and a seething Lavant are all pluses for sure.
Benjamin Mercer in Reverse Shot:
For our fictionalized lobotomist, the object of the westward-leading circuit is to outrun the strengthening professional headwinds, the first wave of antipsychotic pharmaceuticals having recently been introduced, leaving fewer and fewer institutional decision-makers with an appetite for the operation in question, with its barbaric follow-through and uninspiring “success” rate … Andy learns that sharing a hotel room with Fiennes, not just a reckless physician but an alcoholic skirt chaser to boot, is its own special kind of hell, and he begins to sympathize more and more with the patients he’s charged with photographing for medical posterity.
Lavant’s daughter / Tye’s love interest played young Lois Smith in Marjorie Prime. Cowriters include the guy who made Person to Person and the star of Alverson’s first two features.