Wednesday, August 22, 2018

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

Director: Martin Scorsese
Year: 1982
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

An aspiring standup comedian goes to the extreme to get a slot on the talk show of one of his comedy idols.
"A guy can get anything he wants so long as he pays the price." (Image Source)
It just goes to show that toxic and delusional fans who think celebrities owe them something simply for the virtue of being devotees aren't limited to our modern social media age. "The King of Comedy" is directed by legendary director Martin Scorsese, who has helmed films like "Goodfellas," "Gangs of New York," and "Taxi Driver." The screenplay is written by Paul Zimmerman, who has worked on movies like "Lovers and Liars" and "Consuming Passions," as well as the made-for-TV short "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown." This story is about an aspiring comedian named Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro). Rupert is an autograph hound and suffers from delusions of grandeur despite the fact he lives in his mom's basement. One evening while outside the television recording studio of his favorite talk show, his idol and show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) is accosted by a crazed groupie. Rupert takes the opportunity to help with the overzealous admirer and is able to slide into a limousine with Jerry where he promptly tells him he is an aspiring comic who would like a spot on Jerry's program. Jerry humors Rupert for a while, but as Pupkin gets more and more invasive, Langford finally tells him off. Pupkin, however, is not deterred and is determined to get on Langford's show at any cost and is willing to go to every extreme to make his dream a reality.
"Jerry and I have a real relationship going on, no fantasy world." (Image Source)
We weren't all that familiar with "The King of Comedy," especially since it is often overshadowed by many other more popular films in Scorsese's repertoire. Now that we've seen it, we believe this is both one of his best films and is one of his most underappreciated gems. This may be blasphemy for some movie lovers, but we wound up liking "The King of Comedy" more than some of Scorsese's other De Niro-led films like "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull." SORRY, NOT SORRY. This is a completely enthralling dark comedy that left us rightfully uncomfortable and squirming in our chairs at the deluded nature of Rupert Pupkin. Where we feel some of Scorsese's past movies are a bit dated, this one is almost prophetic as the issues it addresses remain as pertinent now as they were in 1982. This may even be truer in today's day and age considering how the communication barriers have decreased between fans and celebrities. With the explosion of social media, your favorite stars are just a click away, which is both a very positive and a very negative thing. Plus, now that everyone hopes to make it big and take a shortcut to fame via platforms like YouTube or Instagram instead of getting gigs on television as many needed to do in the past, people are willing to do anything and everything, guilty or innocent, to achieve notoriety, buzz, fame, and sometimes infamy, just like Rupert did.

Robert De Niro is absolutely fantastic in this film as the self-deluded but tragically sympathetic and somewhat pathetic Rupert Pupkin. He is the epitome of "fake it until you make it." He lies and talks a big game about all of his celebrity friends and how they've made promises to him that they never actually made because they don't actually know him. Sounds like a horror movie waiting to happen. His attitude leads to many moments of cringe-comedy and lots of secondhand embarrassment, which impacts the audience a lot more than it seems to affect Pupkin. Another tremendous performance is given by Sandra Bernhard as Masha, a fellow Jerry Langford-enthusiast who is a little more manic and extreme than Pupkin. Bernhard gets the single most awkward and intense scene when Jerry is taped to a chair at the mercy of her demented fanaticism. The acting really helps elevate this movie to near-masterpiece status.
"Why didn't you just listen to the tape when I asked you to?" (Image Source)
We loved "The King of Comedy." Not only is it funny, but it is devastatingly thought-provoking as well, especially in this day and age. Let's be honest, we all know somebody like Rupert Pupkin, even if they don't go to his extremes. This movie showcases director Martin Scorsese at his best and is something every fan of his should seek out immediately. It is relevant, important, excellently acted, and darkly satirical.

My Rating: 9.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
RT Rating: 90%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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