Exasperate me, please
February 11, 2016 11:42 AM   Subscribe

I am seeking books and movies in which characters are slowly driven to complete exasperation in the face of relatively minor annoyances. Bonus if this exasperation is handled in a comedic (or blackly comedic) manner.

I'm not looking for people with defensible beefs, or struggling against real oppression. The pettier, the better. The example in my head is the 1961 Marcello Mastroianni film Divorce, Italian Style, but I am open to any era or format.
posted by apparently to Media & Arts (50 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Okay this isn't a movie, but the Larry Sanders Show is the absolute first thing that came to my mind. Larry Sanders is so hilariously exasperated (sometimes rightfully so, but mostly because he's a shallow coward, lol).
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:44 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Falling Down is not exactly comedic but otherwise fits.

See also God Bless America.
posted by mikepop at 11:50 AM on February 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Surely the canonical movie example has to be Falling Down?
posted by Dext at 11:50 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Out of Towners (the original with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis).
posted by holborne at 11:59 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Best answer: Office Space
posted by w0mbat at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


The episode of Breaking Bad ("Fly") where almost nothing happens except Walt and Jesse try to kill a housefly.
posted by lgandme0717 at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nicole Holofcener's smart comedy Enough Said is basically about this. ... and a chance to watch James Gandolfini again.
posted by flourpot at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2016


So I immediately thought about What About Bob. I'm not sure it totally fits, though, because I think you can see the film one of two ways.
posted by selfnoise at 12:02 PM on February 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Best answer: Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis. Fawlty Towers: Basil Fawlty does exasperated like no one else.
posted by Aravis76 at 12:05 PM on February 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


Best answer: Every single episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm is this, pretty much. If you really want movies rather than TV, Larry David made an okay movie for HBO called Clear History whose main criticism was that it "plays out something like an extra-long but subpar episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm."
posted by something something at 12:05 PM on February 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


in which characters are slowly driven to complete exasperation in the face of relatively minor annoyances

If you'll allow a TV series, this is basically the pitch line for Mr Bean.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:07 PM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Clerks comes to mind.
posted by one of these days at 12:08 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Accidental Tourist has a main character who is basically exasperated with every aspect of living in the world, and tries to pad himself away from it.
posted by xingcat at 12:10 PM on February 11, 2016


I want to say in the movie Grand Canyon. There's a scene where some one (Mary McDonald?) goes ape shit in the Gap/Old Navy because she's been waiting to check out and someone cuts in front of her.

I've tried to confirm. Anyone?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:14 PM on February 11, 2016


It wasn't a great movie, IIRC, but Clockwise (featuring John Cleese) sounds like it fits the bill.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles has a slightly different arc, but much of it is Steve Martin being driven apeshit by John Candy.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:18 PM on February 11, 2016


I want to say in the movie Grand Canyon. There's a scene where some one (Mary McDonald?) goes ape shit in the Gap/Old Navy because she's been waiting to check out and someone cuts in front of her.

I've tried to confirm. Anyone?


It's Frances McDormand in Friends with Money, here.
posted by mefireader at 12:19 PM on February 11, 2016


It's a Gift is an old WC Fields movie that's mostly comedy built around this premise, including an incredibly hilarious scene of the various tiny things that keep the poor dude from just being able to take his nap.
posted by anotherthink at 12:20 PM on February 11, 2016


Best answer: Seems like A Confederacy of Dunces might fit the bill. I loved it.
posted by karbonokapi at 12:28 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Try "Brazil" a 1985 dystopian science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam.
posted by drthom at 12:34 PM on February 11, 2016


Fawlty Towers, if you don't mind a TV series. Basil Fawlty loses his mind in just about every episode.
posted by culfinglin at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Perhaps the Coen Bros. A Serious Man.
posted by brentajones at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2016


The Death of a Government Clerk by Chekhov.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 12:41 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


This Warner Bros classic "A Pest in the House" is kind of typical of this genre... not sure if the exasperations are minor...
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:02 PM on February 11, 2016


Best answer: The French movie Diner des Cons (Dinner of Fools) is, I think, a good example. Ignore the fact that the Steve Carrell/Paul Rudd movie Dinner for Schmucks was based on it; it's got nothing to do with it.
posted by mhum at 1:06 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Planes, Trains and ... oh, jinx.
After Hours
Monty Python's "The Cheese Shop," "The Dead Parrot," and many others.
posted by Melismata at 1:11 PM on February 11, 2016


Will Wiles' novels, The Way Inn and Care of Wooden Floors, are funny and maddening at the same time.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:16 PM on February 11, 2016


+1 for John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces".
It seems that Ignatius J. Reilly is permanently exasperated by the world and people that surround him.
But that's just because he's a genius, you know.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 1:32 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Farces usually start out with minor annoyances responded to with minor frustrations that build and build until they blow.

The Importance of being Earnest, any of the National Lampoon vacation movies, and What About Bob are three examples I can think of offhand. I don't know if any of Moliere's plays got turned into movies but they're this all over.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:51 PM on February 11, 2016


Dennis vs. the buzzer in the "The Gang Goes on Family Fight" episode of Always Sunny.
posted by CheeseLouise at 2:05 PM on February 11, 2016


Best answer: i just realized that the canonical thing for this is "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin", a UK sitcom from the 70s which was a work of absolute genius, particularly the first season.
posted by w0mbat at 2:15 PM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Best answer: Quick Change

Grimm: When you say "near" the airport...
Bus Driver: .48 miles.
Grimm: Alright. When do we get there?
Bus Driver: 22:30 hours.
Grimm: When is that? In human time.
Bus Driver: 10:30.
Grimm: 10:30. Say you had to walk it...
Bus Driver: With that injured individual?
Grimm: Yes.
Bus Driver: I can't give you a precise figure on that.
Grimm: Come on! Make a guess.
Bus Driver: 21 minutes.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:43 PM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]




Father of the Bride (the 1991 Steve Martin version) - George lands in jail, his building frustrations having culminated in a rage at the fact that hot dogs come in packages of 8 but hot dog buns in packages of 12.
posted by naoko at 2:49 PM on February 11, 2016


You mean like Who's on First?
posted by SLC Mom at 3:22 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Frasier?
posted by cornflakegirl at 3:24 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Perhaps "Election", a movie in which the main character becomes obsessed with the outcome of a student body election.
posted by metadave at 3:25 PM on February 11, 2016


The Details. Begins with raccoons, ends with catastrophe!
posted by esoterrica at 3:34 PM on February 11, 2016


In Tepper Isn't Going Out by Calvin Trillin, the protagonist exercises his right to occupy his NYC parking space to the extreme annoyance of other New Yorkers, a group of people exquisitely prone to exasperation.
posted by Otter_Handler at 4:17 PM on February 11, 2016


Election!
posted by sestaaak at 4:22 PM on February 11, 2016


Second Curb Your Enthusiasm, and suggesting the British equivalent to it, Lead Balloon.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:40 PM on February 11, 2016


And I'd have to agree with Confederacy of Dunces, and also suggest Three Men In A Boat as far as reading goes. Peep Show and 15 Storeys High are another couple of British TV series where the characters are slowly driven insane by completely petty things.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:44 PM on February 11, 2016


What about What About Bob?
posted by benbenson at 5:59 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Anger Management
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:09 PM on February 11, 2016


Best answer: Don't Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk - an early masterpiece of the genre!
posted by Miko at 7:21 PM on February 11, 2016


I immediately thought of Franz Kafka.
posted by lilies.lilies at 8:05 PM on February 11, 2016


Next stop: The Twilight Zone.

Several episodes from the original series, like
A Thing About Machines
and The Mind and the Matter:
"People, People, People!"
posted by Rash at 10:31 PM on February 11, 2016


Another vote for Le Diner de Cons. It's a great little farce, and the exasperation that keeps building and building within Brochant is sublime. There are a few moments in that film where Thierry Lhermitte flashes a glance, almost breaking the fourth wall, filled with such enormous exasperation and Weltschmerz that I lost my shit.

Thank you, mhum, for reminding me of that movie.
posted by bluejayway at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2016


Just about everything Kingsley Amis ever wrote.
posted by tangerine at 1:44 PM on February 12, 2016


This is Bob in Bob's Burgers daily life, although his exasperation with minor annoyances is more warm and gentle than dark.
posted by blue_and_bronze at 3:30 PM on February 13, 2016


Fisher's Hornpipe, by Tod McEwen!
posted by salix at 9:35 PM on March 1, 2016


« Older What's the best way to achieve a docker-like build...   |   Sibling extremely dependent on increasingly frail... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.