There’s a throng of unconditional fans outside a TV studio. They’re waiting for Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) to come out and catch a glimpse of him, shake his hand, get his autograph. We’ve all been there.
Masha (Sandra Bernhard) is a bit more intense. She sneaks into Jerry’s limousine and sexually attacks him. No, we haven’t been there (I hope).
Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro), a frenemy of Masha’s, reaches in and saves the day, while she curses inside the vehicle and Ray Charles’s versión of “Come Rain or Come Shine” plays.
I’m gonna love you, like no one’s loved you
Come rain or come shine
High as a mountain, deep as a river
Come rain or come shine
A perfect song choice, of course, since Martin Scorsese’s underrated 1983 film is a commentary on obsession. Jerry’s admirers obsessed with meeting their idol and getting his signature on their books. Masha obsessed with Jerry, the man behind the TV host, devoting her life to thinking about him in the tub. Rupert obsessed with making it big as a comedian, whatever it takes (seriously, whatever it takes).
In The King of Comedy, as per IMDb, aspiring comic Rupert Pupkin wants to achieve success in showbiz by resorting to stalking his idol, a late night talk show host who craves his own privacy.
Throughout 109 minutes, Rupert and his sidekick Masha exhibit all sorts of psychotic tendencies. As the French would say, these people are “fucked up in the head”. Of course, the crazy stalkers are oblivious to the insanity of their actions. Showing up at your idol’s country residence and letting yourself in is totally normal!
It’s baffling to me that this dark comedy is one of Scorsese’s lesser known and most under-praised films, since it’s also one of his finest.
Paul D. Zimmerman’s BAFTA-winning screenplay deftly blends comedy, a central theme to the film, with the desperation of Rupert’s unfulfilled career aspirations and the murk of two severely damaged minds.
Robert De Niro is one of the greatest actors to ever grace the screen, and one of my favorites, but if we’re being completely honest, the man rarely veers from a certain type of part. The ruthless mobster, the taxi-driving vigilante, the bigoted cop; they’re all iterations of the same tough guy role Bobby does so well.
As Rupert, De Niro shows a vulnerabilty and desperation you wouldn’t expect from him, and that’s what makes his performance so compelling. We’re not used to seeing Robert as a loser, the underdog, but he’s just so damn good at it.
Stand-up comedienne Sandra Bernhard is fantastic as deranged Masha, a rich woman with too much time on her hands, who thinks having your favorite TV host taped to a chair in front of you equals a date.
With The King of Comedy, Scorsese and Zimmerman show us the scary lengths some people will go to to fulfill their dreams. I mean, tone down the laughs a bit, give it an ominous score and you have yourself a horror movie!
We all daydream sometimes. About being rich or famous, hanging out with our favorite celebrity or, like Masha, soaking in the tub with them. The thing is, we’ve got to be careful not to let those fantasies dictate our lives.
The Verdict : 9/10 – IncredibleOnce again, I highly encourage you to check out Committed to Celluloid or follow Fernando on Twitter at @fernandorafael.