Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big  Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date First Look: Cobie Smulders & Guy Pearce In Andrew Bujalski's 'Results' First Look: Cobie Smulders & Guy Pearce In Andrew Bujalski's 'Results' 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders Watch: Oscar Isaac And Jessica Chastain Are At War In First Trailer For 'A Most Violent Year' Watch: Oscar Isaac And Jessica Chastain Are At War In First Trailer For 'A Most Violent Year' Review: 'The Maze Runner' Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson, Will Poulter And More Review: 'The Maze Runner' Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson, Will Poulter And More Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey Won’t Be Back For ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Director Says Sequel Will Be “Very Different” Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey Won’t Be Back For ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Director Says Sequel Will Be “Very Different” David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'The Bitter Buddha' Captures The Brilliant Meta-Comedy & Existential Angst Of Eddie Pepitone

Photo of Katie Walsh By Katie Walsh | katiewalshwrites.com March 8, 2013 at 1:52PM

Eddie Pepitone is a comedian of dualisms. At 52, he's the next big thing. He's a meditating vegan with rage issues. He enjoys swearing at LA drivers as much as he likes to feed squirrels in the park. This duality of character is what Steven Feinartz's documentary "The Bitter Buddha" (the title an oxymoron itself) attempts to convey about Pepitone, a man who is as delightful as he is loud, as incongruous as he is familiar, as buddha-like in nature and stature as he isn't.
0

The Bitter Buddha
Eddie Pepitone is a comedian of dualisms. At 52, he's the next big thing. He's a meditating vegan with rage issues. He enjoys swearing at LA drivers as much as he likes to feed squirrels in the park. This duality of character is what Steven Feinartz's documentary "The Bitter Buddha" (the title an oxymoron itself) attempts to convey about Pepitone, a man who is as delightful as he is loud, as incongruous as he is familiar, as buddha-like in nature and stature as he isn't. 

Pepitone is a stand up comedian in LA, a comic's comic, as the slew of comedians interviewed attest to in our introduction to the man (testimony is given by Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Jen Kirkman, B.J. Novak, Paul Provenza, Dana Gould, Scott Aukerman, Andy Kindler, Sarah Silverman, and more). And yet, he's still under the radar, still trying for that big break. His signature scream belies his ennui and frustration with life itself, and one gets the sense that screaming into a mic is one of the only things that helps to keep him sane (he alludes to this himself). 

That primal scream is derived from many things: a rough childhood, struggles in the industry, the unbearable weight of life itself. It's a scream all too many can relate to, and because Pepitone is so honest about it, he has a magnetic force about him. He's extremely self-aware while also heartrendingly raw about everything from his own personal existential angst to larger political and social issues. He goes "there" but isn't offensive; he's too smart to rely on cheap laughs from that kind of insult.  

The film relies heavily on the quirky acid charm of Pepitone -- there's not much else going on except for him. It's a swiftly and smoothly edited piece of snippets from Eddie's life: bits onstage, hiking with his girlfriend, cleaning up after his cats. But maybe it was the right instinct in giving the film room to allow Eddie to be Eddie, as some of the funniest and most touching moments come from his one-liners in the car or at home, busying himself with work. He's as laugh out loud funny in the bits onstage as he is yelling at an LA driver or trying to scan his headshot. One wants more about his past and his journey (it's briefly alluded to how he got a "late start") but ultimately, this project is just about this man at this particular moment in time.

Much of what we learn about Eddie comes from his talking about his family and life story with friends, and on podcasts. The filmmakers show us the behind the scenes of that comedy world, and allow the story to unfold through Eddie’s interactions. There are few ironic moments of old friends talking about his wild man days that are intercut with Eddie going about his daily life, just being the sweet and gentle man who’s about to yell the house down at the local comedy club, just because he has to. Also,there are a few animated sequences featuring Eddie and Marc Maron, with audio from Maron’s WTF podcast or WTF live shows, and truth be told, an animated series featuring these two as themselves would be a monster hit (Comedy Central execs, take note). 

"The Bitter Buddha" is arranged around the story of him returning home to New York City to headline at Gotham Comedy Club. However, the loose narrative meanders a bit until ramping up to the climax, where finally we get more story conflict-- will Eddie sell out his show? Will his dad leave Staten Island to come see him? The filmmakers refrain from cutting into his show at the Gotham, allowing his comedy to play out, and at this moment, we are allowed to see just how brilliant Eddie really is. His comedy is about comedy, it's about bad auditions, it's about the career itself, Twitter, hecklers. He leaves the stage and heckles his empty mic stand, developing and unraveling layers upon layers of inner monologues and questioning and doubt, calling himself out, taking his comedy and breaking it completely open, exposing its insides. It's brave and bold and completely in step with the way that he lives his life completely bare and self-aware. 

This is a portrait of an interesting and endearing misanthrope, but someone who we all know lives inside of us. Eddie’s just more willing to put it all out there, to express that existential angst most modern people experience. At the end of the film, Eddie still lives in his world of dualisms: he feels like he’s just starting out, and yet he’s also ready to look back on his legacy of comedy. And then he just laughs, because what else can you do? [B+]

"The Bitter Buddha" opens in NYC on Friday and will be rolling out in major cities throughout March. 

This article is related to: Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates