Back in the 1980’s, whenever a movie starring Robert De Niro was set to be released, everyone could expect one thing; a transformative performance. Regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time, De Niro has an amazing catalog of work that would rival anyone. From “The Deer Hunter” to “Raging Bull” he is an actor which many have tried and failed to duplicate. However, in recent years the quality of De Niro’s work has suffered and even though he received an #Academy Award nomination for “Silver Linings Playbook,” he virtually played an extended version of himself.

In this film, De Niro is supposed to portray an iconic comedian who is looking to reinvent himself. Though the film is meant to be funny, there are very few laughs, if any.

The story does not go anywhere

In a screenplay which was written by Art Linson and Jeff Ross, (two men who should know what is funny) this film does little if anything to capture the actual world of comedy. When making a film about an aging star, one of the most basic elements of the story should be to provide the audience with some kind of background into the world that this character used to live in. To become a comedian, there has to be some sort of darkness behind the laughter and it was never revealed in this film. They cast actual comedians in this film and in once scene, they have roast for an aging Lucille Ball like comedian.

They filmed the scene in the actual Friars Club in New York City but instead of making the scene play out like current roasts on Comedy Central, it reminded me of the #Dean Martin roasts of the 1960’s and 1970’s. It seemed as though the writers were unsure of the plot of the story. For being a movie directed by Taylor Hackford, the film seemed very disjointed and not polished like his previous works.

There was also a very uncomfortable toast given by De Niro’s character at his daughter’s lesbian wedding that just drove home the idea that this character is extremely out of touch.

Is this movie a commentary on comedy?

As I continued to watch this film, I wondered if the movie itself was a commentary on certain brands of comedy.

There are a select few comedians that have made a career out of being raunchy without necessarily being funny. There are scenes in which De Niro’s character is spewing out material that is not funny yet his audiences laugh. There does not seem to be any intelligence behind his jokes and his character is never self-loathing enough. There is a weird cognitive dissonance between De Niro and audience. They seem to laugh because of who the comedian is not necessarily because the joke is funny. Even the interplay between De Niro and Harvey #Keitel is not what one would expect. These are two great actors that seemed incredibly uncomfortable when sharing the screen together. There was certain amount of over-aggressiveness and (in Keitel’s case) cartoonish acting which was supposed to be funny but the laughs never came. De Niro should take a break an admire his Presidential Medal of Freedom.