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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

U.S.: Leslie Small, Tim Story, 2013

Standup comedians are, in some ways,  the decathlon athletes of show business. They have to do it all, do it fast, do it strong. The best of them — Robin Williams, Richard Pryor and Steve Martin, for example —  can or could be dazzling. But a good stand-up pro is always impressive, and Kevin Hart, at the center of the concert movie Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, and one of the most popular in the world right now,  is a pretty impressive performer, even if I suspect this wasn’t his best stuff — or the best stuff he‘ll do.

Except for Hart’s bit as a party guest in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This Is the End, Let Me Explain was my introduction to the comic: a diminutive spritzer of formidable energy and bizarre imagination. And though he’s obviously a funny guy, it wasn’t the  most attractive intro. Shot at a sold-out concert or two at Madison Square Garden in a  stadium full of laughing, howling fans, it‘s a movie that shows off Hart’s impressive gifts as a live performer — lungs of steel, unflagging energy, brilliant mimetic and physical gifts, a wild imagination and a seeming willingness to use his entire life as comic material.

The movie is short (79 minutes) and so is Hart (5’2”). He’s also tireless and dynamic. But it could have been better, wilder, funnier. The jokes rely too heavily on domestic stuff like his marital problems (for which he blames both himself and his “jealous” wife) and his partly exaggerated selfishness and eccentricity — and not enough on his better joke anecdotes, like the tale of his troubles riding  a horse with too-long stirrups. Or weirdo flights of fancy like the deerbra — half deer, half zebra — which is his ridiculous improvised excuse for being late.

The film begins with an obviously staged scene which purports to be Kevin’s party, full of  “plastic cup guys” and “dark-skinned and light-skinned sisters.” (That’s their designation in the credits.) It’s also full of booze and profanity. In the midst of the merriment, a seemingly foul-mouthed, egotistical Hart (obviously role-playing), spews obscenities, tiffs with irreverent and critical guests, tosses down cups, and decides he’ll show everybody, by just zipping over to Madison Square Garden and putting  on  a show.

Bushwa, of course. The concert is already set up, before Hart makes an offstage prayer, walks on stage and cues some fire effects in imitation of  shows by Jay-Z and Kanye West. (Also, before taking stage, Kevin gives us a quick zip through his recent world tour, of 10 countries and 80 cities, including Copenhagen and London, all full of adoring fans. Talk about self-advertisement!)

Hart starts up his act to more fans, wild applause and howls of laughter, and he does his thing. The audience would have liked more and so would I. I could also have done without the phony party scene, specially since Hart drops his “obnoxious” character when he takes stage. He’s actually touching when he goes bitch on us (his slang) and tears up at the end. No gold medals here, but there are laughs. And deerbras. (Deerbras? Give me a break.)

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One Response to “Wilmington on Movies: Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain”

  1. Kevin Hart is one of the funniest comedians out right now. If he keeps it up, he will be on Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, and Martin Lawrence status.


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon