Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Jesus is Magic (L. Lynch, 2005)

After a long string of brief supporting roles in films like The School of Rock and There’s Something About Mary, Sarah Silverman finally gets a film that places her center stage and allows her to fully display her subversive talents in Jesus is Magic. Every bit as provocative as The Aristocrats (another comedy film that featured Silverman this year), and about three times as funny, Jesus is Magic uses the comedienne’s stand-up act as a starting point, but also incorporates musical numbers, backstage drama and various other digressions to take advantage of the film medium and keep viewers off-guard. As a comic, Silverman seems to be intent on finding humor in subjects that normally are certain comedic death. AIDS, the Holocaust, 9/11, pre-pubescent sexuality, dead grandmothers – it’s all here. Silverman also employs a variety of terms that are normally considered off limits when referring to other cultures. Venturing into taboo topics in order to find laughter is nothing new, of course. However, Silverman possesses a remarkable quality that distinguishes herself from comics like Don Rickles and Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay. Throughout her routine, it always remains clear that the source of our laughter does not reside in the people to which she refers. She is not encouraging us to laugh at Mexicans or lesbians or African-Americans. She is encouraging us to laugh at the insensitivity of this stage persona she has created for herself. All the time we watch the ‘stage’ Sarah Silverman, we are comforted by the fact that the ‘real’ Sarah Silverman knows better. Whereas comics like Chris Rock might use their minority status to take pot shots at the dominant culture, Silverman uses her position of privilege in order to make a sly commentary about the ignorance of stereotypes that continue to persist in contemporary society. Yes, Silverman is Jewish and also a woman, but she plays the part of the white, wealthy, attractive, spoiled celebrity princess. In her own way, she plays the role of clown, encouraging us to use herself as the object of ridicule. If any of the comments she offers resemble thoughts we ourselves have had in earnest, we do not gain a feeling of superiority and validation. Instead, we feel embarrassed and ashamed in recognizing our own irrationality and foolishness. Director Liam Lynch, whose previous credits include the video for Tenacious D’s “Tribute”, manages the whole affair rather effectively, keeping the pacing brisk and efficiently managing the shifts from concert-style footage to sketch comedy to hilarious music videos. Only Bob Odenkirk’s cameo as Silverman’s manager falls flat and seems out of place. For the most part, Jesus is Magic is simply a sheer delight and marks the coming out of a talented performer who has been long overdue for her own vehicle.


Blogger FreeThinker said...

I saw "Jesus Is Magic" too, and I'm not sure it was OK to laugh!

But I laughed anyway.

Here's my post on the movie.

5:24 PM  

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