Some of the best comedy is built on absurdity. In Kubrick’s DR. STRANGELOVE, the heightened symbolism that connects sex, dominance, and war provides a fantastic spoof on hyper-masculine American military culture. Meanwhile, in films like Gilliam’s BRAZIL, banal disinterest in catastrophe, terrorism, and torture speaks to our ability to slide quite easily into authoritarianism. This is not to say that Michael Schaar-Ney’s THE MOUSTACHE rises to the level of BRAZIL or STRANGELOVE, but it nonetheless plays on our culture’s most ridiculously tendencies, in this case, the notion of fashion and image as self-improvement.
In the film’s narrative, a portly, nebbish office worker named Mike decides on the fly to grow a mustache. While he hopes it may make him appear more charming (especially to his neighbor), he is surprised by the radical changes that a mere mustache made in his life. His neighbor notices him for the first time, he gets a promotion at work, and his life starts to turn around. Of course, as it begins to pay off for him big time, he also begins to get carried away by the glory of his mustache.
Like most good comedy, the film’s humor comes from its pacing, reiterated. Mike appears somewhere, and people at first flustered then intrigued and then entranced. And, because it’s a comedy, the banal workspaces, bars, and apartments serve only to highlight the absurdity of Mike’s newfound celebrity.
While all this doesn’t raise THE MOUSTACHE to a comedic masterpiece, it does show an emerging filmmaker who understands what makes absurdity great and can accomplish this in a small piece.