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‘Comedian’ is De Niro’s best showcase in years

SFGate Wednesday, 1 February 2017
Robert De Niro works a lot, and contrary to what some people like to say about his later career, he is always better, usually much better, than his roles require. [...] his showcases this century have not been ideal, a mix of big roles in weak movies, small roles in better films and other roles that are amusing, sometimes in a self-referential way, but that don’t allow him to grow. [...] “The Comedian” is something special, a good movie that gives one of our best actors a chance to show us something new and to remind us that the Robert De Niro story is not entirely written. Some even resort to showing us the audience’s reaction in a nightclub as a way of telling us that the comedian is going over well. All the movie’s finer points — of audience response, of interaction, of the dances between people — are conveyed with a specificity so expert that it seems offhand. [...] the dynamic is odd, with lots of unacknowledged hostility, and very fluid, changing imperceptibly as the businessman’s anger goes from unconscious to conscious. [...] it’s a simple scene, but the direction and the acting are so precise that it’s a minor thing of beauty. Danny DeVito as Jackie’s long-suffering brother; Patti LuPone as Jackie’s sister-in-law, who can barely contain her hatred of him — and then can’t contain it; Edie Falco, as Eddie’s agent; Charles Grodin, as a comedian from the old days; Cloris Leachman as a 95-year-old comic actress on her last legs; and several comedians, including Jimmie Walker and Brett Butler, as themselves. [...] special attention should be paid to Mann, who more than holds her own opposite De Niro. “The Comedian” is the story of a comic’s career and of his personal life, and despite having been written by a committee of four, it has cohesion and the power to surprise.
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News video: No One's Laughing At De Niro 'Comedian'

No One's Laughing At De Niro 'Comedian' 00:30

Robert De Niro is back in a new movie, "The Comedian." Directed by Taylor Hackford, the movie centers on a comedian who has seen better days. De Niro's character has to perform community service after a fight with a heckler. The film stars Leslie Mann, Harvey Keitel, Charles Grodin, Billy Crystal and...

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