5 Funny Films About Failure
Failure is an unsettling feeling that no one should have to endure. In a perfect world, everyone could leave their homes and succeed at everything they set out to do, encountering zero bumps along the way. But alas, we don’t live in a perfect world. If anything, our world is engineered for failure. Sure, in hindsight, a failure can be seen as an opportunity to learn and grow, but stewing in the immediate aftermath of it is unequivocally the worst.
Luckily, though, we’re not alone. Characters have been failing on-screen for decades, with great comedy being birthed from these struggles. To that end, here are five films about failures that are meant to be laughed at…
Craig Gillespie’s black comedy chronicling the meteoric rise and embarrassing fall of Tonya Harding is a highlight reel of one of America’s most publicized failures. It follows the woman who was the first American to land the triple axel as she became the woman implicated in the 1994 assault on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan. While the film doesn’t shy away from shining a comedic light on Harding’s various failures — including a federal investigation, competitive skating ban and multiple divorces — her actual involvement in developing the film likely led to Gillespie and Margot Robbie softening the blow a bit.
Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure was the movie that put the Triangle of Sadness filmmaker on the map. It follows the marital tension arising from a husband saving himself instead of helping his wife and two children during an avalanche in the French Alps.
As with many international successes, the film went on to spur an American remake starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell. It was aptly renamed Downhill as it proved to be a bust with audiences and critics alike — a failure of a movie about failure.
“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” is one of the oldest adages about a particular type of failure, and it acts as the beating heart of Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids. From the jump, Kristen Wiig’s Annie Walker is a failed businesswoman trapped in a “relationship” with a self-absorbed womanizer who sees her as nothing but an object. She then has to take on maid-of-honor duties for her thriving best friend’s wedding. Annie is a magnet for failure throughout the story, hitting rock bottom more times in one movie than most of us experience in a lifetime.
Singin’ in the Rain
The same way that video killed the radio star, the inception of sound in movies killed the silent film era. Gene Kelly’s 1952 musical comedy offers a playful look at this transition to the “talkies” and features a beautiful failure facing a problem of many actors at the time: having a lousy voice for cinema. Kelly’s film, regularly considered one of the greatest movies ever made, was among the first to be selected by the Library of Congress for preservation.
Martin Scorsese is known for his criminals and mobsters, but one gem that sets itself apart from the rest of his filmography is this absurdist comedy about a guy who just can’t stop failing. Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), a data entry worker, fails at his job, fails at getting laid and fails at getting home as he endures a late-night series of misadventures in Manhattan. The setup is the perfect pressure cooker for Scorsese’s knack for building tension and his dry comedic chops. It would also inspire one of the most memorable episodes of Ted Lasso.