Dustin Guy Defa | 2010 | 77 min | USA
The ratio of shitty comedians to good comedians must be 1000:1, easy. But where's their story? The King of Comedy doesn't cut it. It's a daydream. And besides, Eddie, the aspiring comedian of Bad Fever, makes Rupert Pupkin look like Chris Rock.
Eddie is a loner trying to make a go of stand-up comedy. He spends most of his time recording, reviewing, and revising tapes of rambling routines made on a dictation machine. He is prolific, sure, but there is not a punchline to be found among his hours and hours of tape.
Eddie also suffers from a crippling nervousness, and when strange drifter Irene is willing to exchange a few words with him, Eddie quickly falls for her. In an effort to please and get close to her, Eddie is soon participating in bizarre "erotica" videos in an abandoned school which Irene mails to "a guy in Iowa" for income.
Shot over a winter in Salt Lake City, the grey setting is suffocating. Low clouds and mumbling strangers make it seem as thought Eddie and Irene live in a world where air can't penetrate and sound can't carry. Even attempts at small talk are usually stifled by chainsaws, clinking glasses, or cell phones. Eddie speaks as though he is simply unpracticed in commucating, and it's simple to understand his difficulty in having a relationship with anyone else.
Kentucker Audley's characterization of Eddie can feel like a guile-less Crispin Glover character, but with pure anxiety overcoming any canned eccentricities. Fortunately, Eddie doesn't feel mocking or over the top. Anything less than a sensitive, relateable portrayal would kill the film, and Audley steps up to the task.
The term "mumblecore" has been applied so broadly and so thoughtlessly that it lacks usefulness as a real descriptor. Many films that have tripped under the banner require tighter designation so audiences can have some sense of what they're getting into. Bad Fever is one of them. How about "No Light, No Hope, No Reason to Exist-core"? While Bad Fever isn't the choice to make for a pick-me-up, it is an absorbing case study of sex work and the economies of loneliness. If you have the fortitude, I highly recommend it.
Bad Fever will be screening with the short film Pioneer in Toronto on August 31, 2011, as part of the Refocus Film series. The program starts at 8:30 PM at Double Double Land, 219 Augusta, in Kensington. And as with all Refocus screenings, admission is FREE!
The trailer is posted after the jump.