Attending a Robert De Niro movie has become something of a crap shoot in recent years. Audiences purchasing a ticket to see one of the finest living actors onscreen are in actuality rolling the dice, equally likely to receive a performance from Actually Trying De Niro as they are from Autopilot De Niro. His recent collaborations with director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, a bit part in American Hustle, this December’s upcoming Joy) have yielded work reminiscent of De Niro’s golden age. But lackluster appearances in tossed-off tripe such as Grudge Match, the Bag Man, and Heist have displayed a markedly different De Niro, a man who appears lost in his own films and desperately searching for a way out.

The Comedian, an upcoming drama starring De Niro and Jennifer Aniston, sounds like it might afford the aging great an opportunity to deliver some of his best work once again. Deadline exclusively reported that the two actors had signed on to the drama, with Ray director Taylor Hackford attached as well. Working from a script developed by Art Linson and roast comic Jeffrey Ross, the film is a character study of an embittered insult comedian in the tradition of Don Rickles. The brittle man finds new meaning in his life when he makes contact with Aniston’s character at a wedding and the pair develop a close bond. The Deadline item notes that De Niro won’t be entirely unfamiliar with this material, having already played a decidedly darker sort of stand-up in the Scorsese classic The King of Comedy. This won’t be De Niro’s first go-round with writer Linson, either; the pair worked together on another sort of showbiz satire, 2008’s What Just Happened.

At this stage in creative gestation, there’s no telling what sort of tone this film might want to strike. How the comedy and drama of a sad movie about a funny man might intermingle has yet to be seen, but it certainly sounds like De Niro has found a role that might wake him up a bit, and that will always be good news.