Rope of Silicon Movie Club

RopeofSilicon Movie Club: 'The King of Comedy' (1983)

Better to be king for a day, than a schmuck for a lifetime

Robert De Niro in The King of Comedy
Robert De Niro in The King of Comedy
Photo: 20th Century Fox

One of the most fascinating things about Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy is how closely it can be compared to the film he did seven years earlier, and yet how different the two films are perceived. Taxi Driver is looked at as a violent psychological thriller while The King of Comedy is described by many as a dark comedy.

Robert De Niro's performance in King of Comedy, as aspiring stand-up comedian Rupert Pupkin obsessed with talk show star Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), holds so many similarities with that of Travis Bickle, and I don't think it's a stretch to say Pupkin, in many ways, is actually scarier than Bickle. In this sense, I wrote above how "many" consider King of Comedy a dark comedy because, in many ways, I think it's every bit as scary, if not more so, as Taxi Driver.

Both films could be looked at as character studies, though Taxi Driver probably more so as I see King of Comedy's Rupert Pupkin as more of an embodiment and commentary on society than a study of one individual. Watching the film today it could be perceived as ahead of its time, but it's actually suited for most any time considering it was made shortly after John Hinckley, Jr.'s assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, an attempt made as a result of Hinckley's fascination with Taxi Driver co-star, Jodie Foster. Is it a stretch to say King of Comedy could be looked at as a response to Hinckley's actions (even though it wasn't)? Certain to look at it through this lens does provide some perspective.

Sandra Bernhard in The King of Comedy
Sandra Bernhard in The King of Comedy
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Someone like Pupkin scares me more than tickles my funny bone, and Sandra Bernhard's outstanding performance as the crazed fan Masha definitely gives the film a jolt of inexplicable insanity impossible to deny. When she and Pupkin decide to kidnap Langford you begin to see just how disturbed she truly is with motivations that can't necessarily be assumed. Driving around with vanity plates and living in a luxurious house, you'd think she had more important things than celebrity idolatry.

Masha and Rupert combine to offer an interesting question, what's scarier, a man that saves a teenager from prostitution through violence or a man and a woman that kidnap a TV personality and threaten to kill him if he's not allowed his 15 minutes of fame? You may say, "But the gun wasn't real," to which I would say, "The threat of death certainly was."

In today's world Masha gives the appearance of a crazed Twilight fan. She's one of the many that make up the hordes of people that wait breathlessly on their favorite celebrity's next word and line up a week in advance just to get a glimpse at the likes of Robert Pattinson or Kristen Stewart. Heaven help whatever celebrity encounters a fan of her passion should she meet up with a man of Pupkin's ambition.

You may look at The King of Comedy as a dark comedy, but try viewing it through the eyes of the celebrity on the other side and it quickly turns into a horror film.

The King of Comedy holds another comparison to Taxi Driver and that's in its ending. The debate over whether or not the end of Taxi Driver is real or fantasy has been going on for years and while its not explicitly fantasy, I think Scorsese was a little more straight-forward with the end of King of Comedy than he was with Taxi Driver.

What's interesting about both endings is they both almost suggest violence in one way or another can lead to some measure of celebrity and it is the human's desire for celebrity that could lead to such things taking place. The realization of this is seen in Hinckley's assassination attempt on Reagan. Whether he saw the ending of Taxi Driver as real or fantasy can hardly be left up for debate as he clearly believes Bickle got the girl in the end.

In today's terms, celebrity is almost easier to attain than ever before. People are famous merely for being famous or for doing unspeakable things. Look at the likes of Paris Hilton, Snooki, Kim Kardashian and the Real Housewives (and husbands) of whatever city you choose. Go to the bookstore and I'm sure you can find at least five books within the first 20 feet written by someone perceived to be famous, but if you ask yourself "Famous for what?" you may have a hard time answering the question.

Robert De Niro in The King of Comedy
Robert De Niro in The King of Comedy
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Beyond all that, I loved the performances and you see those directorial flourishes Scorsese has become known for peppered throughout. I fell in love with his camera movement through the offices at the television station and the way the camera moved so fluidly through the aisles as Pupkin stormed his way from one office to the next (see that here).

The performances were outstanding across the board as this has got to be one of De Niro's best performances ever, Lewis is excellent as Jerry Langford, though I do say this not having seen much of Lewis' work overall, but that doesn't make what he's done here any less impressive, and Bernhard is over the top crazy as Masha, a character I've already spent a lot of time discussing.

I've yet to see all of Scorsese's work, but while films of his such as Goodfellas, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull are hyped beyond belief, films such as this and The Last Temptation of Christ deserve more attention. Personally, The King of Comedy is as good, if not better, than those three I just mentioned. What do you think?

DISCUSSION RULES

The rules are simple and, if necessary, will update as we go along.

  1. No topic is off limits as long as it pertains to the movie of the week or comes as a natural progression of the conversation.
  2. Keep your comments to a reasonable length. I know the urge to write a lot at once is there, but try to rein it in and get out one thought at a time. That way the conversation will move more fluidly and make sure none of your thoughts are overlooked.
  3. NO BULLYING: This is important, while you are free to disagree, do so in a mature manner. Hopefully I won't have to explain that any further.
  4. Suggestions for future Movie Club titles must be emailed to movieclub@ropeofsilicon.com. Comments on actual Movie Club articles pertaining to future discussions and not the film being discussed will be deleted to make sure we remain on topic.

VOTE FOR THE DECEMBER 10, 2012 SELECTION

Based on last week's poll, the December 3, 2012 Movie Club selection is Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story (1971) starring and .

Use the following poll to vote for the December 10, 2012 Movie Club selection and to suggest films for future entries direct all your emails to movieclub@ropeofsilicon.com.

NOTE: Today's poll was entirely made based on suggestions from readers writing in and I urge you to look up information on each if you aren't familiar. Each offers what could be some fantastic conversation and I'm excited to see which one you decide on.

Vote for the December 10, 2012 Movie Club selection

  • Insomnia (Erik Skjoldbjaerg) (63 Votes)
  • Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson) (25 Votes)
  • Alice (Jan Svankmajer) (13 Votes)
  • Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti) (11 Votes)
  • Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic) (9 Votes)

Total Voters: 121

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Next week's film will be David O. Russell's Flirting with Disaster. For more information and an updated schedule, visit the Movie Club homepage and hopefully it will be one you all watch as it is readily available on YouTube for only $1.99.

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  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Criterion10/ Criterion10

    I saw The King of Comedy for the first time over the summer and absolutely loved it. I found it to be a great dark comedy, with an excellent central performance by Robert DeNiro.

    This is definitely an underrated Scorsese film, and I would certainly call it one of his best. A similar Scorsese film that I feel gives off a similar vibe is After Hours, another underrated gem.

    Scorsese does an excellent job in creating awkward scenarios in this film, a style of humor that I always tend to find very funny and fascinating. There are endless moments of this in the film. A personal favorite example would be the sequence where Pupkin shows up to Langford's house with his girlfriend and invites himself in. Pupkin's actions slowly becoming more and more upsurd as the film went on was totally believable to me. This scene only represented the beginning of what was to become.

    Brad, the one comment that I love in your analysis is when you compare Masha to a crazed Twilight fan. This is what I think the film does brilliant, in that it depicts how obsessive fans can become. What's even better is how much more it can relate to today's society and culture. While we may not see fans kidnapping other celebrities, we certainly see them abd the media as a whole obsessing in ridiculous ways over them.

    If I did have to make one complaint or nitpick, I personally would've changed the ending a little bit. Instead of going for something realistic, with Pupkin being arrested, released years later, and then achieving fame, I personally would've enjoyed something more hyperrealistic. I think Pupkin killing Langford and taking his place on the show would've been a very interesting possibility. Still, the movie works fine with its current ending.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      So you don't interpret the ending as fantasy? I don't think Pupkin ever achieved fame, I believe he went to prison, was released and never heard from again.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Criterion10/ Criterion10

        Yeah, I never saw it as being fantasy. Reading over your interpretation again, you do bring up some very good points and the connection with Taxi Driver is a very good one. I'll definitely be on the look out next time I watch the film to for different clues and whatnot.

        I should also add though, that according to the IMDB trivia section of the film, Lewis suggested to Scorsese that his character be killed by Pupkin at the end of the film. However, Scorsese rejected this idea. So, maybe he was intending for a more ambiguous ending? Or, maybe he just didn't like the idea? Either way, this little side note was what originally made me think that such an idea might provide a for a better ending.

        BTW, I see that Larry Clark's Kids has now dissappeared from the voting choices... Was this intended?

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

          Yes, it disappeared because it isn't readily available to watch.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

            Hey Brad, maybe you could throw Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot back up there in its place. It didn't get many votes, but I was kinda interested in watching it.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

              It will get back in there, i tried to go with a "weird" variety for this one. Hulot's Holiday is great though, I'll try and come up with a foreign comedy selection.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

          Yes, I don't see the ending as being a fantasy either. If it was a fantasy, the cultural observations Scorsese was making at the end of the film simply wouldn't work.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

            Oh I disagree, it's a fantasy so many strive for and the film is loaded with fantasy settings from Jerry and Rupert's lunch, their meeting, the wedding. I totally think the end is a fantasy and believed it more and more as the announcer continues to say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Rupert Pupkin!"

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

              From my review: "Above all else, The King of Comedy is a prescient film about people's obsession with celebrity and how someone with absolutely no talent can become a national icon. Jersey Shore? Ha! Scorsese had em beat by 26 years." - If the ending was a fantasy, none of that could be true. If it was a fantasy, Scorsese WOULDN'T be making a point about how our culture turns talentless jackass's into celebrities. The ending wouldn't really have much significance at all. It would just re-emphasize how delusional Rupert Pupkin is (a point the film had already made time and time again). It would just be redundant to make that same point again.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

                I wouldn't say Scorsese or screenwriter Paul Zimmerman were making a point about how our culture turns talentless jackass's into celebrities. In the era the film was made (and it was written long before it was actually made) reality television wasn't a "thing." Shows like "Jersey Shore" and celebrities such as Snookie didn't exist in the way they do now.

                It's a film about celebrity obsession, the desire to be a celebrity and getting those 15 minutes of fame, not how our society turns idiots into celebrities. There are elements of that in there, but I don't think it was the primary message.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

                But that's why I think it's so prescient.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

    After enjoyed the seven Scorsese movies I’d seen prior to “The King of Comedy”, I went in expecting something good. At the same time, I remained cautious since the premise read like something a little different than what I’ve seen from him. After watching, I can chalk it up as another winner. Let’s go through some strengths and development areas:

    Strengths:

    - Robert De Niro – Aside from “Meet The Parents” and “Analyze This”, this is the only comedic role I’ve seen from De Niro. He knocks it out of the park in “King of Comedy”. Having never been as convinced as others regarding his greatness (still haven’t seen “Raging Bull”), this convinced me he has better range to different types of roles more than I believed before.

    - Comedy and Scorsese’s direction– A combination of De Niro’s performance and Scorsese’s direction allow them to pull off some memorable comedic moments. In one memorable scene where Pupkin is asked to leave the lobby for probably the 30th time and he just sits back down in the same position, I had a smile on my face the whole time and started hysterically cracking up. With the wrong director / actor, this could play out very boring.

    - Payoff – When Pupkin finally gets his five minutes of fame, you’re rooting for his success. The viewer gets the sense he has “won”, even the act portrayed on a small screen in an empty bar. In terms of build-up, while the plan of kidnapping and holding hostage is a little extreme, it is conceivable and believable given what you know about these characters.

    - Shelley Hack – Nothing too discussion-worthy about her “Cathy Long” character, but I enjoyed her portrayal for one reason or another. Shelley has not been in anything since 1997.

    Development Areas:

    - Sandra Bernhard – How annoying can a character be? I understand that’s what the intention was. However, there have been pestering characters in movies before far less bothersome . Bernhard’s distracting whining aside, I wondered what her motivations were. How much of it is her obsession with Langford vs. trying to professionally get a break?

    - Romance – Rupert’s love interest in Rita Keene (Diahnne Abbott) was unconvincing in the scheme of the story and simply served as a means of delivering the payoff.

    Discussion Point:

    Is Rupert’s mother alive, or is she just a voice in his head? We never actually see her in the movie and it’s obviously portrayed that he’s delusional at times. He mentions she’s dead in the act, but is it just for a moment of comic relief?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

      Funny how Masha was something you enjoyed about the story most, Brad. As I mentioned in my entry - she was something I didn't like. You do draw a good connection between the crazed fans of today and her though.

      Damn, I still really need to see Raging Bull and Taxi Driver...

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I believe Rupert's mother is alive, but that's an interesting interpretation. On a more trivial note, the voice of his mother was the voice of Scorsese's mother.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

        Interesting. I hoped there would be a commentary on the DVD to point out these types of things but no luck.

  • Jack

    IMO, I think this is DeNiro's best or certainly most underrated performance. Scorsese considers it his best. Also amazing, is how he stayed in character especially the way Rupert treated Jerry Lewis off screen. DeNiro would hurl anti-semitic insults against Lewis in order to build tension between the characters.

    I remember reading Scorsese talking about how he wanted this to be his first "mature" film, meaning there were very little camera movements, other than the one you mentioned, compared to say "After Hours". He wanted it like a 30s picture. No close-ups.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Timothy/ Timothy

    I believe that The King of Comedy is neither a horror film, nor a comedy. The humour comes from Pupkin's insane pathetic actions, and the horror comes from his actions I would call this a tragedy, that is a modern tragedy. it is not Pupkin that is so tragic, but rather us. We live in a society where we could be so fascinated by one man's actions that as a result he can become famous, or a "celebrity".

    But then again, what is a celebrity these days? The meaning of the word has evolved over time. Before, a celebrity was a successful person, who was frequently in the public eye. Now you don't have to be successful to be a celebrity. What Pupkin craves is what we all crave, popularity. To be accepted in the way where people know your name, and whisper behind your back when they see you.

    And he gets it, which is exactly what makes the film so tragic. We buy it. We want more of it. The comparisons to Taxi Driver and the Reagan assassination attempt are quite interesting. When Hinckley shot Reagen, he was doing it as a way of getting the attention of the woman he was obsessed with, which in many ways mirror's Masha's insatiable lust for Langford, not Pupkin's rise to fame.

    In Taxi Driver, De Niro saves a child prostitute via violence, but in The King of Comedy De Niro isn't saving Jerry Langford by kidnapping him, he is using Langford to further his own means. Travis Bickle may even be considered noble by some, but Rupert Pupkin is the flip side of Travis Bickle. They both possess dangerous impulses, where Bickle uses his to help others, in a way, but Pupkin uses his to help himself.

    I found the film to be slightly slow, and it wasn't at all what I had been expecting. It ranks among De Niro's best performances, and it also showcases Scorsese's gritty talent in an interesting way. I chuckled at some points, but despite the title, this is not a comedy. The humour, as I mentioned above, comes more from Pupkin's absolutely pathetic character, and his attempts to be famous.

    I agree that a lot of Scorsese's films are overhyped, but while The King of Comedy is a good film, it is not Scorsese's best.

    Overall, I wouldn't exactly call it great, but the qualities that prevent it from being great are the things that make it good.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Andrew13/ Andrew13

    I first saw The King of Comedy this past spring, and have since seen in four more times. While I still believe that Taxi Driver (my favorite film), Goodfellas, and Raging Bull are Scorsese’s three masterpieces, The King of Comedy is not far behind, and The Last Temptation of Christ (another criminally under-watched picture) would round out my personal Top Five Scorsese Films.

    Like you said in your analysis, one of my favorite things about The King of Comedy is how similar it is to Taxi Driver, and yet how different both the tone and interpretation of the film is amongst audiences. I, for one, see The King of Comedy as just as dark a picture as Taxi Driver, but Scorsese shoots it in such a way that the violence, or threat of physical violence, is not bubbling on the forefront nearly as much as in Taxi Driver. For me The King of Comedy is very much about obsession, but it’s also about the hypocrisy of the entertainment industry, something that, as a screenwriter myself, I can certainly relate to. And as much as the film is Scorsese commentating on how easily celebrities forget about where they came from and lose sympathy for others aspiring to be like them, I think Scorsese does remind us about the price of celebrity. Jerry Langford, in the few scenes from his perspective that we see, is not a happy man. He’s lonely, yet he is never alone, he is always followed and haunted by crazy fans, and the sense of isolation that comes about with being a celebrity shouldn’t be ignored.

    Robert De Niro is magnificent in this film, especially considering this came out only three years after Raging Bull. I’m hard pressed to think of another actor who made such a dramatic character change in consecutive roles, and De Niro once again shows us why he is arguably the greatest actor of the modern era. The role of Rupert Pupkin is unlike anything he’s done before, or since, and while the Travis Bickle parallels are there, De Niro presents Rupert in a completely different light than Travis. Sandra Bernhard’s performance really rubbed me the wrong way the first time I saw the picture, but I’ve come around to it more on repeat viewings, but there’s still something about it that just feels a bit off to me.

    I don’t believe Rupert’s mother is alive, which adds another disturbing layer to his character, and while I have no doubt that Taxi Driver’s ending is reality, I’m actually less sure about The King of Comedy, though the idea that Pupkin would get a multi-million dollar book deal for that one night of fame seems very much a product of Pupkin’s mind, especially considering the time period.

    The one issue I have with the film is the sequence in which Rupert takes Rita to Jerry’s house. While it seems to be rooted in reality, as it is the snapping point that leads Rupert to kidnapping Jerry, I just have a hard time buying into the idea that Rupert could force/cajole his way to Jerry’s house. Then again, maybe it is a fantasy, maybe all of Rupert’s motivation is created through his own thoughts and imagination, which makes his character, and this film, all the more disturbing.

    But when it’s all said and done, The King of Comedy is one of my favorite films.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    The King of Comedy is one of Martin Scorsese's very best films and Robert De Niro turns in a performance that should have run away with the Oscar. King is easily in my top 3 favorite comedies of all time. The laughs come consistently and hard.

    Scorsese uses cinematography to brilliant comic effect throughout the film. Probably my favorite example of this is when Rupert starts roaming the halls, searching for Jerry Langford. At one point, Scorsese cuts to a wide shot of a row of cubicles leading towards a hallway. At first we don't know quite where Rupert is in relation to the shot but then we see him quickly pass from one end of the door frame to other, followed by security guards. This is funny, but the real laugh lands later, as Scorsese holds the unbroken wide shot as Rupert passes from right to left this time, going in the opposite direction, again being chased by the guards. The scene is made funnier as the office employees heads begin to slowly appear over the cubicle walls. King is filled with brilliant comic moments like this throughout.

    The scene in question: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLfKFKGMfPU (skip to 48:37)

    The character of Rupert Pupkin feels like a less violent and more absurd version of Travis Bickle. But in some ways, you could say The King of Comedy is more disturbing than Taxi Driver. While Travis was praised as a hero for his violent deeds at the end of Taxi Driver, he didn't have any presence of the national stage. Pupkin, on the other hand, made a name for himself by committing various crimes and taking a celebrity hostage and threatening his life. While it's played for laughs, one wonders if things could have gone horribly wrong (as these things so often do in real life). Above all else, The King of Comedy is a prescient film about people's obsession with celebrity and how someone with absolutely no talent can become a national icon. Jersey Shore? Ha! Scorsese had em beat by 26 years.

    4.5 / 5

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Andrew13/ Andrew13

      Very nice review, though one thing I disagree with, and it's something I forgot to talk about in my review, is the idea that Rupert has no talent. I think the film makes a very interesting choice in actually making Rupert a decent comic. It would have been very easy to just make him a hopeless dreamer with complete lack of self awareness, but by giving him some comedic talent they almost validate Rupert's actions to a certain extent, and speak to that idea (tying back into the notion of celebrity hypocrisy) that it doesn't matter how good you are if you're not in the right place at the right time, because becoming a celebrity isn't about skill, it's about luck.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

        I don't know, I thought his routine was pretty bad, and I think it was intended to be (but I could be wrong, of course).

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Criterion10/ Criterion10

          Got to disagree here. I actually thought the routine was rather good, and the frequent laughter from the audience supports the idea of this.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

            I don't see how the audience laughter supports the idea, seeing as how studio audiences laugh at everything, regardless of whether it's funny or not.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Andrew13/ Andrew13

              It comes down to your personal opinion of whether or not Rupert was funny. You clearly didn't think he was, which is fine, but that means you're going to have a different, but equally valid, interpretation on the film's message than Criterion10 or myself.

              I for one think Rupert's routine was funny, and I have to believe the writer's intentions were to make him funny. Otherwise, the whole film is making fun of not just Rupert, but everyone who aspires of becoming a famous comedian/actor/singer, and I don't believe for a second that the crew behind this picture held that sentiment.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Kessler/ Kessler

    A very nice write up, Brad, even though I didn't like it as much as you did. I'm actually having a hard time of saying what I actually though of it. I'm not even sure if I even liked it, to be honest. Maybe I need a second viewing, but for right now I'll say it's an interesting movie with great performances.

    I'm a little confused as to why some people think of this as a comedy. What where the funny moments? I didn't think any of it was funny. I actually found it to be kind of sad to watch. All Pupkin wanted was to be noticed by people and no one gave him that chance. Even Langford wouldn't help out Pupkin despite their talk outside his house. I couldn't laugh at anything because of Pupkin's obsessive nature. Once you know where his mental state is at it becomes hard to laugh at him because you know he's serious. It almost makes it disturbing to watch.

    The interesting moments for me all came from Masha's character. I actually wanted to know more about her. You can definitely compare her to a crazy Twilight or Justin Bieber fan that would exist in the real world. I really wanted to know where she came from and how she got that way. I wanted to know what made her so obsessed about Langford and I think that's what Scorsese is saying with her character. We all know what makes us like celebrities and become fans of them, but what drives people to obsess over them? Why do certain people do crazy things because of the celebrity. I'm not sure what the answer would be, but it's certainly interesting to think about.

    The performances are all excellent throughout. I think Scorsese said that this was the best performance the De Niro gave him and I won't argue that. I also really liked Jerry Lewis's performance and think he deserves more recognition for this.

    I guess my main problem is that I don't know how to interpret it. Is it meant to be a comedy or a horror? I'm not sure and I'm hesitant to say more because of it. Hopefully I'll get a better understanding of it once I watch it again.

  • Lewis

    Let me just put it out there that The King of Comedy is by far one of Scorsese's weaker films, along with Bringing Out the Dead. Those 3 classics mentioned earlier are hyped about for good reason..they're all masterpieces.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      You put it out there, but you haven't said anything to back up your opinion. Is there a reason why you feel this way? Might help if you want to have a discussion.

  • http://cinemmaconfessions.blogspot.com Gautam

    Brad, I will be seeing it tonight and then drop in my thoughts. But on some other note, your 10th December selection of films is quite interesting. Though isn't Insomnia (1997) the same film that Nolan remade in English ? Nolan's Insomnia is good but not great. I wonder, how good is the original.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

    I might need to watch it one more time before discussing, I hadn't realized it is closely related to Taxi Driver as you said (Brad). Except in Taxi Driver I see Travis as a misunderstood hero and here the protagonist is just crazy and it feels as if we the audience are encouraging him in some way. It feels like Travis and Rupert are polar opposites, but they too are loners trying to make something out of their miserable lives.
    They both do bad things to get to their goal in life, except Travis wants to do something good (rescue a teenage prostitute) while Rupert looks only for fame and nothing else.
    All I can say now is I think its way ahead of its time and it reminds me of how people get fame they don't deserve. People are more interested now in crazy people than in people who are actually doing something useful.
    I remember reading Edward Norton said this is one of his favorite films and it made me think how in Fight Club he starts following Tyler Durden for his ideals, but at the end realizes other people are following him for other reasons they don't even know of.
    In Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle has given up on society, through experience he realizes there is only one thing left to do with his life which is wipe out all the bad guys and help the only good girl he knows. Here Rupert wants fame for no reason and its given to him for no good reason.

  • Travis C.

    First off De Niro's performance is one of my favorites of all time ranking up there with Peter O'Toole's T.E. Lawrence. The scene in Pupkin's mothers basement with him puting on a talk show for himself is one of my favorite scenes in that De Niro is incredible, it's very funny, yet incredibly disturbing at the same time. Second, I have to say that though I had remembered taking the ending as reality, a commentary how people can become famous, successful for all the wrong reasons, only spurring on more of the same type of behavior from similarly disturbed individuals, but upon giving the film a re-watch, I came down with a strong belief of the opposite. First off if I remember correctly, the scene is blown-out as you find in most dream sequences in film, I'll have to give the movie another look since I haven't seen in a while, but I remember there being a few other signifiers that the scene was not reality. Overall though I love the film, though it may not be your usual sort of comedy, like Happiness, Man Bites Dog, or any number of darker comedies, it will certainly get a number of laughs from a certain portion of the audience, while others just sit there wondering what's wrong with those who are laughing.

  • tombeet

    I actually enjoyed Masha's character (she really knows what she want ^^) and at times feel sad for her and Pupkin. The fact that people constantly call Pupkin by wrong names are both funny and pitiful. (he's hardly noticed by anyone)

    From that point I really think his routine was all true based on his life (makes it even sadder because people are laughing at this; and I do think the routine is good as for me it's heartfelt, he did it with all his heart. People laugh at his lines because they know they suppose to laugh and in some ways they don't take it seriously, so much the same with the way we view celebrities, we view them on what appear on the surface, but we never dig deep to really understand their life, their emotions.

    I do think Rupert's mother is dead and her voice is just another hallucination of Rupert. Rupert's mind appears to have many realities and his Mom was in one of his reality. The ending for me also is one of his fantasy where everything worked out all right and he became famous.

    It's really a thought-provoking film and to me deserved to get much more attention.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/shahbakht/ shahbakht

    I loved this movie. This is one of my most favorite Scorsese movies. While I can easily see the reasons behind the popularity of movies like Goodfellas, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, this one is no less a movie. De Niro is amazing. His performance was really a surprise for me, as I hadn't seem him in such a kind of role before. People questioning his range as an actor should see this one and Midnight Run, as well.

    Anyhow, the movie is masterfully crafted. The celebrity culture is sliced layer by layer and our obsession with it as well. A though provoking dramedy, that leaves the viewer a little uncomfortable at the end. Some people are even forced to ask themself: "Am I like this? Am I also obsessed with the celebrities? With stardom? With fame?". And the answer is not so easy all the time.

  • Susan

    Love the movie. One of my favorite parts is how calm De Niro is in his intensity. The way calmly avoids the truth behind other people's statements and just hovers around is truly creepy.

    I'm curious what everyone thinks of Jerry Lewis in the film? He's often been mocked for his films, but this is really a hell of a performance.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

    I didn't get around to seeing this until last night, but I really loved it. It's my favorite De Niro performance I've seen (I've yet to see Raging Bull). I was a little nervous Scorsese was going to leave Pupkin's comedy routine out of the film and just reference it afterwords, because so much of the movie would fall apart if the tone of that scene wasn't right. Rupert couldn't be great, but at the same time it couldn't be outright terrible. The final product is my favorite scene in the movie. It's cheesy, nothing-too-special, late night comedy that would not seem out of place on a number of shows today. However because of what we know of Rupert, the routine comes off as both incredibly tragic (its one of our few glimpses into his past) and twistedly comic. His strange stage mannerisms and his smug self-assuredness, coupled with the audience's reaction all while w the police were waiting for him just off camera had me rolling.

    Also one little touch I loved was that in one of his fantasies, Pupkin expresses concern that his opening one-liners aren't strong enough, implying that he believes parts of his routine need work. However this is almost word for word one of the criticisms Long gives him and he dismisses it instantly. Someone dissing their own work (even if they know its good) just to get compliments is nothing new, but the writing and acting in these two scenes were so natural I though it was great. It was a brilliant little touch on the character who believed he deserved fame simply because he'd be good at being famous.