Tom Shkolnik’s The Comedian doesn’t really have much control over the story that it intends to tell; this could be because of the rules Shkolnik put into place when making the film or because it is just a badly conceived picture, which really isn’t saying anything at all.
Following the story of Ed (Edward Hogg), an amateur un-funny comedian in his early 30’s, The Comedian tries to tell a story about sexuality and emotion in a modern day London. Living in multiracial and multi-sexuality city, the film embarks upon a tale about what happens when the lines blur and things don’t become so obvious about where one’s emotions lay. Ed leads a rather mundane life, working a call centre by day and testing out his comedy by night in local bars and clubs; he finds his comedy is sometimes well received but other times, it can fall pretty flat. Ed’s flatmate is Elisa (Elisa Lasowski), a soulful French singer who has a very close relationship with Ed. The pair live like brother and sister and tell each other everything, but the film tries to set a feeling that there may be something more between them. Through some rather heavy handed close ups and a poorly paced script, the film tries to pair them together, even when Elisa is talking about other guys to Ed.
One night after a show, Ed meets Nathan (a completely miscast Misfits Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), a young black artist who says how he feels and what he thinks. He walks up to Ed on the bus ride home and tells him that he thought the comedy show was good, expect few others would have agreed. Apparently this compliment is all that Ed needs and they connect instantly; starting a physical and later emotional affair. They spend a lot of time talking, which quickly becomes arguing and although Shkolnik believes they are discovering things about each other and cracking below the surface, The Comedian does anything but and remains very suspect of emotions. When the bond between Ed and Elisa is suddenly threatened by this new relationship, Ed has to decide between both the man and the woman that he, apparently, loves.
What is interesting about The Comedian is the lack of name giving it gives to the sexuality of the characters, there is very little discussion as to whether Ed is gay or bisexual. This makes the film stand out against a current of films, which makes sexuality and ‘coming out’ the central issue upon which the entire narrative spirals on. Whilst Ed never quite decides whether he goes one way or the other, The Comedian contains more scenes, which show physical love between Ed and Nathan; there seems much more of a spark between them than his relationship with Elisa. Instead the latter pairs conversations seem to spiral either on the guys that fancy her, or what is going on in his relationship. There is little chemistry between the actors and this makes it difficult to even try and contemplate anything going on between them.
As a whole, the film felt very lazily put together – it could be argued that this is down to the improvisational elements of the production and yet there is one sequence in this vast void of unemotional drama, which is both touching and intriguing. Whilst on the bus, the two guys are surrounded by a group of girls who are ribbing them for their sexuality. Instead of full out homophobic jibes, the girls aim a little deeper below the surface and start berating them for the way in which they have sex. They go on and go, which eventually upsets Nathan, whilst Ed just sits and tries to ignore them.
Ed’s character seems contrived and one dimensional in the film, because as a comedian, he gives the impression of someone who says how he feels and stands up for himself but when he is made the slightest bit uncomfortable, he just hides away from the world and shuts his mouth – in a great scheme of the film, he just becomes boring to watch. What adds to the scene though is that as well as the sexuality element, race is brought into the argument. This is the closest Shkolnik gets to really representing the London, which he sets up to explore. Nathan and one of the girls, who happens to be black, argue over heritage and she says that they were not brought up to be gay. This further angers him and he goes to stand up for himself. Overall there is a severe lack of power to this scene though because it has no fall out and no consequences.
The rules, which I mentioned earlier, from Shkolnik included that locations and times of the day should not be faked, the recording should fit the organic evolution of the story, only one take is allowed, we must not know what happens next in the story, all actors should use their names and that the setting up of film lights or any changes to locations should be done in a discreet manner in less than an hour. Whilst this is innovative and certainly a great experiment for contemporary cinema, which is breaking more and more boundaries, this film just comes across as hugely boring and lacks any great ideas. As no one had any idea where the story was going, there is never any room for character development in the film because any one decision could change the film too much and instead we end up with a couple of hours of dramatic arguments, completely throwing out of the window the need to actually have story development or peaks to the narrative. It takes a very brave and professional filmmaker to do such a film and I think that on this occasion Shkolnik hasn’t been able to produce the film that his ideas could have become.
The Comedian was a bland look at some people’s lives, there are pretty boring characters with very little to add to the cinema. The story goes no where and the chemistry between the characters was almost non-existant. It is a shame with the great idea behind the film, but it takes a little more skill and background to be able to pull through on this.