Less a film you watch than a breakdown episode you try to get through, Rick Alverson's Entertainment is a bottomed-out desert lulu that manages to make its 110 minutes pass like the worst month of your life. It's slow, seamy, pained, sometimes hallucinatory, a dismal sort of fantasy camp for anyone who might like to tour the Mojave's diviest bars as a depressed and detested stand-up comic. It's thrilling but also sometimes so dull you can feel your mouth going stale as you wait for something to happen -- but also so tense you'll probably hope that nothing actually does.
Gregg Turkington stars as his longtime alter ego Neil Hamburger, a phlegmatic comic in a ratty tux whose bombing non-jokes are like IEDs built from Henny Youngman's leftovers: "Why don't rapists eat at TGI Fridays?" he says, not really asking. "Because it's hard to rape with a stomachache!" Hecklers get dressed down in the foulest of terms, at excruciating length.
The routine is real, in its way: Turkington has played the character for a decade before audiences in the know and not. In Entertainment, trickily, Turkington isn't precisely playing Hamburger. Instead, he's playing a man who isn't Turkington who plays Hamburger, without Turkington's self-awareness or success.
When not onstage, this Hamburger slumps through the Mojave's tourist sites and resists connection with the couple of people who seem to care for him, including a cousin, played by John C. Reilly, who offers the only performance in the movie that viewers will all laugh at together. The other laughs wait for the sympathetic to mine them from awkward silences as wide as the Mojave horizons.