"Muck" by Bruce Smolanoff
Lago Film Festival 2015 - Official Selection
Name: Dóra Bartal
We live in the age of Louis C.K. The jolly comedians who offer easy entertainment by making fun of everyday things are long gone. These people have to deal with the same shit as everybody else and their personal life is undeniably encompassed in their material. The comedy now is real, and sometimes so cynical and honest that it is uncomfortable to watch.
The short film Muck is a mini, female version of a Louie episode, but I wouldn’t do Bruce Smolanoff and his team any justice if I used this simplifying description. There is more to the story of Mel, the aspiring comedian who tries to enter the New York open mic scene full of weirdos. She is an angry, bitter young girl who has always had the feeling of being unwanted. Although her clinging mother fully supports her, there is a communication barrier between them. Unsure about her talent, the awkward stage and sex situations she runs into don’t help her to feel more confident.
It is a common problem of shorts and it also applies to the crowd-funded Muck: at 14 minutes, the film lacks a tight structure and feels slightly unfinished. A more positive way to put it would be that the viewer enjoys Mel’s world and wants to see more. The strength of the film undoubtedly lies in the acting. Only Suzanne Grodner (as the mother) is less convincing, since the character itself, the woman who is stuck in the past and never got over that her husband left her, is a bit stereotypical. Tallie Medel, who also works as a comedian, however, is a great choice to depict the insecurities of Mel. Muck opens as she rehearses jokes, tries out several impressions and there is an element of surprise when she is finally out of character and speaks in her own voice. She doesn’t quite know what can work for the audience and at the same time, she also has a hard time figuring out her relationship with the outside world.
Muck focuses on a very current issue. Coinciding with Amy Schumer's film Trainwreck, which has already inspired hundreds of thinkpieces, it could seem that female comedians already arrived to mainstream audiences. It might not be the case. Comedy by women, unfortunately, is still considered to be a niche entertainment, something that has to be distinguished from the one done by men. Yes, it is a tough industry, and this obstacle is incorporated into the narrative, but it is not the major issue. Mel rather has to deal with her inner fears and learn how to turn her anxieties into comedy and make fun of her own state of mind. It has been discussed excessively, to the point of absurdity, and Muck altogether is a fine effort to finally make us forget the senseless question: are women funny?