The Bitter Buddha – Movie Review

Half successful standup comic Eddie Pepitone expands the screen from stage to life as he lives his part 24 hours a day.

Proclaimed the “Bitter Budda” by his friends and followers, standup comic Eddie Pepitone is like a Rodney Dangerfield who gets no respect. No, really, he really gets no respect. Growing up in an incubator until the age of nine years in the hallowed comic streets of Brooklyn, Eddie reports that asking his father to pass the salt at the dinner table was like negotiating with Hamas for peace in the Middle East.

Fat, ill dressed, unbathed and sporting teeth so bad they look like they were engineered for failure, Pepitone is gleefully disgusting, gratefully marginalized and catalyzed to a frothy dysfunction that has catapulted him to the Norman Vincent Peale of negative thinking.

Visualizing himself on Jeopardy, his response to a loss of points after failing to correctly answer a question: “I’ll kill everybody!”

Not so much a sore loser as a man who has intentionally chosen rebellious failure over obedient success, Eddie knows there are those who share his misgivings about the brave new world. When he stands in front of an audience of white collar professionals who are actively engaged in the gentrification of neighborhoods like his and the extermination of people like him, he is able to engage them by forcing them to acknowledge that they are as insecure and as marginally successful as he is.

It is not who you are or how much money you make, it is how you differentiate yourself from your internet shadow that counts. To exist is to be real, and real people are getting harder to come by every day.

Staying abreast of modern technology, he swears at his computer, as do we all, and Twitters to make up for a life not well spent. His twitter feeds compress deep hopelessness and instant gratification into the ultimate statements of the failure of technology to cope with real human needs. SOS signals sent into the ether, sure to be misunderstood in the interest of good manners, misrepresented in the interest of turning a profit or simply over ridden by the thunderous applause attending the lame entries of young, beautiful rock stars.

The film is complete with interviews from a fantastic array of the best counter culture, misanthropic and culturally critical comics of our time. Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt, Sean Conroy, Paul Provenza and Dana Gould weigh, each attempting to express in words the depth and breadth of the oddly reassuring message of death and destruction that flows from the lips of the Budda.

As Eddie tells them he has secured his first major headline gig at one of New York’s top comedy clubs, they react with a curious mixture of awe and disbelief. There is hope in their eyes based on the theory that if he could do it, anybody could do it, combined with the vision of bodies piled on bodies on top of them as they claw their way up through the holocaust of professional standup comedy.

The most important success any comic can have is to find anybody willing to listen to him. As the day of Eddie’s big opening approaches, the audience of “friends and family” numbers about a many people as one would find on a Tuesday afternoon in a Bed-Stuy deli. Devoted customers, yes, but not jumping out of their seats for a look at the chicken salad.

In the end, not only is the act a success, but Eddie’s father shows up for his son’s big night. Seeming to bask in the light of his son’s success, dad also shares in the disbelief that anybody would pay to hear such groundless kvetching. Still not entirely convinced he is witnessing the success of his son, dad glows with pride, anyway. After all, what else can you do?

All-in-all, a wholly successful film about a half successful man who has made it, his way. Or perhaps he has failed to make it, his way. In a world of half-truths, half Tweets, earphones, smart phones and the information highway that contains mostly disinformation, Pepitone screams and fights for what he believes in. Because what he believes in is screaming and fighting, he is a natural.

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Documentary / Comedy
Directed by: Steven Feinartz
Featuring Eddie Pepitone, Zach Galifianakis and Sarah Silverman
Release Date: March 29, 2013
MPAA: Rated R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference
Run Time: 140 Minutes
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color