Director David Seltzer's 1988 film about the world of stand-up comedy, Punchline is a slice-of-life backstage pass with some Hollywood embellishment. Seltzer employs a good bit of documentary style as he gives us a glimpse at the performers' heartbreakingly competitive world, featuring a slew of real-life luminaries (including Damon Wayans and John Goodman). Tom Hanks shows good emotional range in his role as an irascible hotshot comic, and Sally Field is convincing as a Jersey housewife-turned-comedienne. Hanks demonstrates an edgy side to his comedy that all but vanished in his later transformation into a blockbuster actor. The film's subtext probes the nature of comedians and comedy itself: the funny can often be sad, and vice versa.
by Mike DiBella review