Fear and Self-Loathing at Comic Con – A Review of Uncle Kent 2
The follow-up to Joe Swanberg’s 2011 film Uncle Kent is about… the follow-up to Joe Swanberg’s 2011 film Uncle Kent. Actor/writer Kent Osborne returns, once again playing a characterized version of himself, this time focused on finding a way to make a sequel the first film loosely based on his life. Afflicted by earworms day after day and forced to confront the madness of the San Diego Comic Con, Kent has an uphill battle to get his sequel made before the world possibly ends.
I really liked this film. Full disclosure, I’ve yet to see the first Uncle Kent. The original Joe Swanberg-directed film is part of the mumblecore genre, with which I’ve always a complicated relationship. Swanberg returns, directing the first 12 minutes of the film, before passing the baton to Todd Rohal, who brings the narrative in delightful and weird new directions. Both the transition and the overall approach to the sequel are fairly ingenious. Dubbed the Gremlins 2 of Indie sequels, Uncle Kent 2 eschews it’s mumblecore origins and the nature of sequels—as well as a great deal of logic—to great success. No rational person would ever think to make or even want a sequel to a film like Uncle Kent, and that informs the sequel’s narrative.
Kent Osborne presents himself as lonely and isolated. After rewatching the first film, he longs to recreate the experience. He wants more than just laying around his apartment, stoned and preoccupied with social media. He needs to make the sequel in order to fill a gap in his life. He wants to reconnect Swanberg and his former co-star so they’d have a reason to spend time together. The fear and angst from this isolation is entirely relatable and, thanks to Osborne’s endearing performance, you root for him to overcome it.
The obstacles Osborne must contend with are increasingly bizarre and hilarious. He could possibly be losing his mind. He tries to comprehend what he’s experiencing via the simulation hypothesis and Ray Kurzweil’s approaching Singularity. From an objective point of view, the entire film appears to be an exercise in solipsism, with Osborne creating this weird world and obstacles himself. Regardless of what’s actually occurring, we’re left with a feel-good end-of-the-world scenario that leaves us smiling as reality collapses around Osborne.
Uncle Kent 2 opens November 11th at the new Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn. Starting November 15th, it’ll be available on VOD via iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, In-Demand, Vimeo, and more.