An amusingly sly look at television and standup comedy, “Punching Henry” chronicles the hapless adventures of Henry Phillips. The low-key film was co-written by Phillips and Gregori Viens, with Viens directing.
The plot involves Henry, who slogs through life as a guitar-strumming comic. He goes to Los Angeles, where J. K. Simmons as Jay Warren, a television producer, tries to sell Henry for a series.
The story is framed via an interview that Sarah Silverman conducts with Henry, with flashback illustrations of what happens. Ironically, it is a video taken of Henry falling off a platform during a performance that goes viral and points the way to potential success. But it is not the kind of demeaning success that Henry seeks.
There are amusing situations befalling Henry along the way. One especially funny incident occurs with his lesbian friends, Zoe (Stephanie Allynne) and Jillian (Tig Notaro), with whom he is staying. The couple wants a child, and Henry acquiesces to a request that he have sex with Zoe, so she can get pregnant. He attempts to functionally do his duty, but much to the chagrin of his perfunctory partner, Henry hilariously fails to deliver.
Phillips is amusing in an understated way. Silverman is enjoyable as the interviewer, and Simmons is droll as the determined but frustrated producer.
“Punching Henry” is no comic gem, but offers many knowing chuckles in following the life of its protagonist. A Well Go USA Entertainment release. Reviewed February 24, 2017.