Monday, August 17, 2009

"The King of Comedy" (1982) - Movie Review

“The King of Comedy” evolves into a film of uneven tragicomedy. Its central character Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) is a pain in the neck for a talk show celebrity Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). Rupert is an aspiring stand up comedian idolizing Langford. He manages to get in car with the man and begins to talk out of something he would have rehearsed numerous times in his basement that he is ready to get on showbiz. Jerry Langford who is annoyed, cornered and knows that the only way to get rid of Pupkin is to give some advice and ask him to call up his office. But the naive Pupkin has developed this idea that he has got a break in to the business of media.

Martin Scorsese in his noted delivery of any material shapes up this film of a man in constant tone of living a fantasy. He knows that it is a fantasy and at the same time believes in it to take control over the territory he has no claim of. One such is his going into the summer house of Jerry Langford with his love interest Rita (Diahnne Abbott). He wages untiring battle towards Langford’s office and waits restlessly. De Niro brings out the mockery and humiliation this character has endured through the life time and is ready to go beyond moronic imagination to do the unthinkable.

The film has possible violence lurking around the script. Anytime anywhere it is about to crack up and pour out the breaking point of Pupkin. Pupkin appears to be in his thirties, dressed in a gaudy blue suit with a shoe out of place to his body. He has awkwardly combed hair and a mustache not belonging to the face. He is a walking deflector of people. He is too flashy to be friendly. But this man admires, aspires and annoys only one he considers friend, Jerry Langford.

Jerry Langford played here by Jerry Lewis lives alone, eats alone with a dog by his side. He has fans all over the city of New York throwing themselves at him. He needs loneliness and Pupkin is not ready to give that. Pupkin has a compadre in this crazy trip. That is Masha (Sandra Bernhard), a wealthy and neurotic young woman obsessed with Jerry. Both these are naive and stupid in tandem. If Pupkin is delusional enough to believe that a talk with Jerry is going to get him to be in his show, Masha is crazier than that to believe Pupkin will deliver one of her many love letters to Jerry. These two pair up for something which is jump start for an otherwise slow sinking film.

This Scorsese film is unlike his regular fair. Its primary character lives in between the reality and fantasy. He imagines to be lunching with Jerry and Langford is begging for him to take over the show for a while. He is also get praised and lauded by the man after he submits the tape containing his stand up material to Jerry’s assistant Cathy Long (Shelly Hack). And the fantasy is not labelled fantasy. It is very real but the over the top reaction gives it out. Even we do not believe that Rupert has got into the business. We do not know his talent because we are never shown of it till the end.

Scorsese does not allow Pupkin’s standup to be seen for a reason. When Pupkin finally gets his stage in the most peculiar fashion, we see that his jokes are not that bad but we know the seriousness behind those jokes. In one of his fantasy with Jerry, he says how he took the tragedies and toughness in his upbringing into the jokes. All comedians do that as it becomes a tool for releasing the sadness, frustration and anger in them. But when Pupkin tells his joke one after another we laugh and feel sorry for the man. He had a tough life and now this is his only way to complete his existence. De Niro puts himself out of the hard people he played and comes out as a pester factory towards his other characters and the audience.

“The King of Comedy” is funny when we see the idiots in Rupert and Masha bring Jerry into their chambers and perform the most clunky and disorganized crime ever. It is realistic when we are not asked to sympathize but directly put under the annoyance test of Pupkin. The awkwardness reeks out the screen and it is not humiliating but uncomfortable to see this man getting on the nerves of every one. “The King of Comedy” is not a typical fair of Scorsese but projects a certain aspect of loneliness and the world of self fulfilling fantasy the people put through to dream their dreams.

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