Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
worthy but somewhat boring
on 24 April 2012
I don't find Lenny Bruce funny. There, I said it. He was necessary and important and all sorts of other words, and I'm glad he came along, and I'm sorry he had such a tough time of it, but I love standup, and he isn't someone I can listen to. His tone is annoying, his material boring, and he just doesn't raise a smile. Maybe it's me, or maybe his material has been copied, improved on, and the times have changed so much that he is just no longer relevant. In fact, the funniest thing I know about Lenny Bruce is the Peter Cook story about when Lenny came to perform at Cook's Establishment club. Cook was excited at having Lenny turn up, but Bruce was a wreck who got evicted from his hotel, and ended up staying with Cook. Cook was trying to keep him out of trouble, so when Bruce said he wanted heroin, Cook went out to look for some. He trawled round everyone he knew, but couldn't get hold of any. Eventually he returned, exhausted, after a night of touring dodgy London spots looking for heroin, and admitted he couldn't get any. "Alright," said Bruce, "what about some chocolate?"
Unfortunately, and unforgivably for a film portraying a story about a magnetic, exciting, funny comedian, watching the stage routines on "Lenny" are quite boring, which is the polar opposite of how it must have been (whichever side of the fence you were on regarding whether he should be allowed to perform or not). This is not Hoffman's fault - he is impeccable. He absolutely nails it - the mannerisms, the speech, the essence. He's perfect. The fault is the material, which just didn't work for me. I couldn't connect with it.
The story itself is a sad tale, although maybe I'd have loved this more when I was younger. Watching him push all the judge's buttons trying to clear himself, watching his constant arguing, even when threatened with contempt of court, I think the teenage me would have been railing at the injustice of it all. But I was watching it thinking "Shut the hell up, you idiot!" I guess that might have been the title of the film in some ways - not that he was an idiot, of course, but because his talking was what got him in such trouble all the time, hounded by the police every time he opened his mouth. It seems so tragic that he was persecuted so much for views that don't even seem shocking at all fifty years later. And I guess he was one of the main reasons for that - it took people like that to move things on. Maybe that makes him a villain - maybe a hero. I guess there's still debate on that.
The film looks great, is an important story, and has a remarkable performance at the heart of it. I just couldn't connect with it, and it had all the excitement and resonance of a history lesson.