Writing this review in 2011, it is quite ironic that although this movie wasn’t brilliantly received on its first opening, it can certainly be viewed now as ahead of its time. This picture deals with the “celebrity” and the mania that surrounds a fanatic. We see nowadays with pop stars and film stars the attention they receive in public from everyday people and this film seems to consult a subject that is relevant in our society almost 30 years later.
The storyline is quite simple – a wannabe comedian hassles and bothers his celebrity comedian idol (Jerry Lewis) until he is forced into drastic measures. Scorsese has given us some psycho/sociopath characters over the years in Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver), Max Cady (De Niro in Cape Fear), Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci in Goodfellas) and Nicky Santoro (Pesci in Casino) to name a few, and once The King of Comedy has been viewed, you can certainly add Rupert Pupkin to that list, wonderfully played by Robert De Niro (in his 5th film under the direction of Scorsese).
Pupkin is a character most people identify with as we look to a better future and wish to be held in higher esteem. De Niro is perfect as Pupkin in a very underrated role. He brings the everyday man to the character as well as displaying a combination of comedy and horror at the same time as his character delves into a disturbed state.
The film itself is funny and has some wonderful lines and scenes that are memorable days after viewing. Films like this aren’t made any more, films that is a real character study of a average man trying to be anything but average.
The rest of the cast are also quite brilliant in this picture. Jerry Lewis kind of playing himself as a famous comedian (the chemistry is brilliant with Lewis and De Niro), and Sandra Bernhard as De Niro’s rival fan who has a lustful agenda toward the famous comedian.
Also look out for cameo’s by Martin Scorsese (as a TV director) and his late mother Catherine, who plays Rupert’s mother off-screen as we only hear her holla’s from upstairs in the house.
If you are a fan of De Niro or Scorsese, or just a fan of black comedy, this is a film for you. Very underrated and has an unusual PG rating for a Scorsese/De Niro movie as it is what is not said that is easy to see for the audience. Great film!