Kudos to whatever outsourced functionary working for Netflix who changed the title of the Mexican film “El comediante” to “This is Not a Comedy” for Norte Americano consumption. That’s truth in advertising. And I’m just guessing here, but I’ll bet she made that switch after watching it.
There’s a scene in this rambling, shapeless, shrug of a movie about a hapless and mopey “comic” who gets his script — OK, it’s a disorganized “idea” for a script — critiqued by “Cannes prize winner” Atom Egoyan. The Canadian director of “Sweet Hereafter” and “Ararat” is played by some Euro-accented actor named Thorsten Englert.
“That doesn’t sound like a movie to me,” he says to Gabriel, the comic we see few people laughing at in his stand-up bits. “It sounds like an anecdote.
As the actor playing Egoyan is speaking to the co-director, co-writer and star of “This is Not a Comedy,” Gabriel Nuncio, that moment has a “meta” quality. Because if nobody else alerted this cabron to this simple fact, at least he scripted somebody into his movie to state the obvious.
“Not a Comedy” follows Sad Sack “Gabo” through desultory stand-up sets, which might have a laugh or two about his “loca” girlfiend — Leyre (Cassandra Ciangherotti). Not that such laughs are captured on camera.
She’s a ukulele-playing flake from Madrid who insists she’s about to be taken off by aliens. And she doesn’t take being mocked from the stage well. Perhaps if the bit had actually been funny she’d have been more forgiving.
Gabo is broke, can’t pay his bills, has this cute other friend (Adriana Paz) who is ready to have a baby, but who wants his “sperm” and “nothing else” (in Spanish, with English subtitles).
“But I could be a daddy!”
He has the hope of getting his “not a comedy” screenplay critiqued by Atom Egoyan as part of this competition. A friend controls the script selection process, and finally, a spot opens up.
“What happened to the other writer?”‘
“He died. The jerk.”
“Not a Comedian” follows Gabo through his days, visiting a dying uncle he hasn’t seen in years, correcting every single person who thinks he moved to Mexico City from Monterrey. Tampico?
He has to lie when he speaks with the uncle who dies after chatting for less than a minute. The uncle’s last words were “notes” on the dope’s script — “Make sure it has a happy ending.”
Everybody he meets gives him notes on that unwritten script, except for the locksmith he keeps calling when he locks himself out. Mr. Locksmith offers furniture re-arranging tips because Gabo’s feng shui is all effed up.
To prove himself to the sperm-craving friend, Gabo impulsively adopts a dog, which he names something “offensive.”
To prove himself to Atom Egoyan, and doesn’t accept the critique. “I disagree.”
I got next to nothing out of this movie, which features dream sequences of Gabo re-imagining his script in sci-fi terms, taking into account what Leyre babbles on about. There’s a gay breakup he’s forced into the middle of, and a ritualistic lakeside funeral he takes in.
He tinkers with his stage act, which doesn’t perk up as Gabo adds music and a puppet to his routine. This Nuncio fellow may be a laugh riot in Viejo Mexico. If so, pretty much everything that would prove that is lost in translation.
If there was a chance at a saving grace in “El comediante,” it might have been in talking the real Atom Egoyan into playing an arrogant and “Cannes award-winner” version of himself. They couldn’t even manage that.
Take the title at its word.
Rating: TV-MA, adult situations
Cast: Gabriel Nuncio, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Adriana Paz, with Thorsten Englert as Atom Egoyan.
Credits: Directed by Rodrigo Guardiola and Gabriel Nuncio, scripted by Gabriel Nuncio and Alo Valenzulea. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:46