"Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic": Shocking — funny — chilling — disjointed
"Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic" is an oddity: part stand-up-comedy documentary, part off-the-wall musical, part ironic exploration of...
Seattle Times movie critic
"Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic" is an oddity: part stand-up-comedy documentary, part off-the-wall musical, part ironic exploration of a unique performer's allure.
Silverman, who has the sweet, pointy smile of a teenage ingénue (she's 35 but looks much younger), created this film with director Liam Lynch as sort of a spinoff of her one-woman show "Jesus Is Magic." Excerpts from the show — performed before a rapt-looking Los Angeles audience — alternate with strange little musical numbers, some lavishly staged, some simple. At a retirement home, Silverman strums a guitar and sings "You're Gonna Die Soon," with its lively chorus, "We're all gonna die, but not as soon as you guys."
It's funny, in a chilly way, as is much of the film.
Silverman has crafted a persona amusingly at odds with her edgy material: the shiny good-girl hair, the shy smile, the ladylike "Why, thank you" when applauded, the girlish skip in her step as she bounds off the stage at the end of the show. In between, she talks about the rape of her dead grandmother, about deboning babies ("That sounds so bad when you say it out loud," she muses), about Martin "Loser" King, about the lack of Jewish women in porn, about race and sex and pretty much everything that's guaranteed to cause squirming. She's a shock comedian in the tradition of Lenny Bruce, and the pretty package in which she presents her content adds to the shock.
But the movie, with its frequent cutting away from Silverman's performance for musical numbers, never quite gels. It's amusing to see Silverman styled as Marlo Thomas in "That Girl," or to watch her sing "Amazing Grace" with help from various bodily orifices, but it's only funny for a moment, and it breaks the momentum of the stand-up routine. Ultimately, we get the odd experience of seeing a 70-minute film that feels padded.
Silverman's no-apologies chill can be bracing in the right context: as the bitchy girlfriend, say, in "School of Rock," the shockingly candid storyteller in "The Aristocrats," or in her current hilarious cameo in the otherwise earnest "Rent." But "Jesus Is Magic" may be a bit too much for anyone but the most hardcore Silverman fan.
In the end, as the irony piles on, Silverman kisses herself in a mirror and gives the camera a scary smile. You might well be relieved to kiss her goodbye.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org