Life is tough for the stuggling stand-up comedian Trevor. He can't seem to muster up a single laugh in the audience, and off the stage he's just an awkward, lonely and extremely poor pyromaniac. His days are spent drinking slushies, lighting random things on fire and practicing jokes in front of the mirror. He is beginning to lose grip of his own mind.
When I saw the trailer for "Ape" I wasn't sure if I would like it, but there was something that seemed a bit off, a bit different, that made me interested. As far as I knew, it could've been a pseudo-documentary as much as an arthouse/indie comedy - but when I heard the lead in the trailer, while on stage, saying he'd hit the next heckler in the audience, I knew I wanted to give it a shot. I hate hecklers, and I love "Falling Down"... Good enough of a reason, right?
"Ape" tells the story of Trevor, a young, skinny, poor and lonely stand-up comic. His life is really just going in circles around his broken dreams - he knows he's not gonna succeed as a comic, but it's all he has. When he's not failing on stage, he's failing at other things. The only thing that really gets him excited is setting things on fire. Not houses or anything, but smaller and innocent things: such as using spray cans as flamethrowers. I think we can all relate to that. Things are hard for Trevor, there is no doubt about it, and his mind is starting to go a little awry as he one day sells an old joke to the Devil, and in return he gets an apple. Trevor has a joke on stage that is based on Adam, Eve, the snake and the apple that ends with him saying he would never make a deal with the Devil. Not a successful joke, of course, but one that will come to be very important in his life. Now that he has the apple, he has to decide whether or not to eat it - clearly it's a magical apple.
Perhaps this sound extremely ridiculous. And maybe it is a bit silly. But "Ape" works because it plays it so casually, and it never makes huge turns. He doesn't meet the Devil in a vision or in hell, but the Devil is a guy dressed in a costume and he is standing by a fruit stand selling salad (don't ask). So even here, and in upcoming turns that are quite odd, it still remains pretty damn realistic. It's obvious that Joel Potrykus has been careful with his script, and he is just as careful with his directing. This is a slow movie that doesn't do much, but instead it portrays such a great picture of the life of a struggling comedian. It has all the awkwardness of a failed joke, it has the repetition of trying to better the jokes, and it has the loser who tries and tries and tires. It also has the competition, another loser - but one who doesn't realize he sucks.
I think what Joel Potrykus has done here is excellent. From the really bleak drama and stale comedy, to the subtle approach to the surreal subject that slowly grows within the movie, it's just spot-on and never misses a chord of emotion. But nothing would have worked without Joshua Burge in the lead. He's the perfect personality for this role. One look at him and you "get" the character. You're ready to walk through all of this hell with him.
I really fucking loved "Ape". It's straight up my alley, working with comedy through drama, and adding some mindbending ideas towards the end. It's always a movie about our character and never about aestethics or getting laughs, and I think that's great. There are no big slapping-the-knee laughs, but the entire movie is just so much fun in all its sadness. I know it's early still, as I am writing this in late February, but so far this is the only movie I have watched so far that I consider for my 2013 list. Time will tell how that turns out, but this is a great little movie that I can't wait to own. "Ape" is quirky, weird, sad, funny, intense, charming and then some!