Don’t let the title trick you. Gothamist learned that this critically-acclaimed indie is more funny “sad” than funny “ha ha.”
While most films fail to capture the feel of a generation, Andrew Bujalski’s low-budget debut (featuring Brooklyn's Bishop Allen),is to be commended for its raw, sharp portrayal of confused, aimless, 20-somethings struggling through quasi-adulthood (twixters?). While shot on an inexpensive camera, with poor sound equipment, and lacking a thorough soundtrack, Funny Ha Ha draws in the audience, transforming them into a fly on the wall in the main character's scattered life. Unlike other “generation” movies, which push contrived scenarios and unlikely one-liners, Bujalski’s angst-ridden characters - performed by an impressive non-professional cast -seem so real you’d think this refreshing film a documentary or the lines improvised.
In the first scene, we find 23-year-old Marnie (Kate Dollenmayer) stumbling into a tattoo parlor, requesting either a Celtic design or “maybe a cow?” The tattoo artist refuses her request, insisting she refrain from drinking & inking because “you always get the wrong thing, it’s there for the rest of your life.” The following morning, Marnie informs her friends she’s lost her job and “just wandering the earth,” a hint to her unresolved direction. Though a seemingly lazy & uninterested drifter, Marnie - a soft spoken, un-ambitious but smart temp who uncynically claims she doesn’t want anything from life - also drafts “to-do” lists, successfully stops drinking, and is determined to learn chess.
The rest of the film revolves around her unrequited love for Alex, (the adorable Christian Rudder of Bishop Allen) a complicated Man-Boy who flip-flops interest in her, a friendship with a nerdy colleague, and hanging out with her slacker-esque friends. While unable to communicate her frustration without such trusty sidekicks as “ya know,” “like,” “I don’t know” and anxious mannerisms, Marnie’s subtle, effective performance - down to her hunched shoulders and rambling, incomplete sentences - clearly exhibits her passive aggressive turmoil. Marnie is probably exactly like someone you know.
Overall, Bujalski’s quirky and amusing film is an authentic, unpolished representation of post collegiate-life: the awkward gestures, the chronic let-downs, the ridiculous scenarios, the overgrown kids casually debating whether loose women can become nuns and who drink beer nightly and tolerate that odd-roommate as he recounts his whiffleball-practice sob story. They’re the lower-middle class kids caught in a haze of indifference and restrained pathos, living in small, dorm-room-messy apartments. And although they seem indifferent and content, Bujalski shows just how frustrating, uncomfortable and unfunny their elongated “slacker” life can be.
Funny Ha Ha, Cinema Village East 12th Street, New York
Listen to Busted Heart - by Bishop Allen