RED BANK: SNEAK PEEK AT ‘THE COMEDIAN’

Robert De Niro in ‘The Comedian,’ screening in a Thursday sneak-preview fundraiser at Red Bank’s Bow Tie Cinemas.

It’s the latest entry in a series that’s offered a first look at features by Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola. And this Thursday, audiences here on the Greater Red Bank Green have an opportunity to catch Robert De Niro in The Comedian one day prior to its going wide on screens from coast to coast.

Patti LuPone and local guy Danny De Vito co-star in ‘The Comedian,’ sneaking onto the Red Bank screen this Groundhog’s Day.

A long-running partnership between the borough-based Monmouth County Arts Council and Sony Pictures Classics (the distributor of top-shelf “arthouse” releases, whose president Tom Bernard is a resident of Middletown), the ongoing slate of fundraiser screenings at Bow Tie Cinemas remains a point of pride for Red Bank film fans: a way to clue in on talked-about indies from such major festivals as Sundance, Tribeca and Cannes, just before they go into general release.

Directed by Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman, Ray) — and co-written by a crew that includes Oscar nominee Richard LaGravenese and Comedy Central roastmaster Jeff Ross — The Comedian returns De Niro to the role of a standup comic for the first time since Martin Scorsese’s edgy The King of Comedy. The dramatic heavyweight, who picked up paycheck gigs in projects like Rocky and Bullwinkle and Meet the Fockers, stars as aging jokester Jackie Burke, whose over-identification with an old TV role has placed him in a rut that apparently could only be escaped through a fight with an audience heckler, a sentence of community service, and the prospect of a new lease on life with a young woman named Harmony Schiltz (Leslie Mann).

An impressive supporting cast of veterans (Harvey Keitel, Edie Falco, Charles Grodin, Cloris Leachman, Billy Crystal, Gilbert Gottfried) also includes  a diminutive dynamo with particular local cred — Danny De Vito, the actor-director-producer whose Throw Momma From the Train had its world premiere in his hometown of Asbury Park (and whose Jersey Films production company scored such hits as Erin Brockovich and Pulp Fiction).

While you’re not likely to encounter a star-studded red carpet or clamoring paparazzi at Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. event (The Comedian has already seen a limited release late last year, the better to qualify for awards season), you’ll still be a star in the firmament of the Arts Council, whose numerous programs (both at their Red Bank HQ and in partnerships throughout Monmouth County) will benefit from the evening’s box office.

The screening is preceded by a wine and cheese (and jams and chutneys) reception from 5:45 to 7:15 p.m., hosted within the nearby Cheese Cave at 14 Monmouth Street. Take it here for tickets to the film only; priced at $12 in advance ($15 at the door), with admission to both film and reception available for $45 ($35 for Arts Council members).

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