Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Death of Stalin

The problem with Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is that Steve Buscemi looks nothing like the tyrant’s (Adrian McLoughlin) shoe-thumping successor. Usually parody hones closely to the object of the satire, but here for instance Buscemi looks and acts like Jerry Ford. Iannucci is actually proposing a new theory of comedy to the extent that the world he creates is somewhere between a London taxi stand, with a bunch of cockney drivers opinionating and one of the chambers of the US congress with a little bit of Hamlet’s gravediggers thrown in. Jeffrey Tambor as a cowering Malenkov, Simon Russell Beale as a buffoonish Beria, Michael Palin as the an ambivalent Molotov, and Jeffrey Isaacs playing a punch drunk Zhukov might better be cast in EastEnders. The actual concept at work, to reduce one of the great milestones  of history, the end of  Stalin’s reign of terror, to the kind of kitchen sink farce you had say in The Honeymooners is as ineffective as it is original. Some reviewers have raved about how funny the movie is. “I want to make a speech at my father’s funeral,” says Stalin’s deranged son Vassily (Rupert Friend) “And I want to fuck Grace Kelly,” is the riposte. That garnered a couple of laughs, but there were no signs that viewers at a recent performance were rolling in the aisles. Iannucci might succeed in making evil banal, but what's so funny?

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