Funny Ha Ha (2002)
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The director gets some things right, like his choice of star and some of the scene pacing. Dialog and character interactions breathe properly; they're languid and yet vaporous, as some other reviewers have said.
Too bad they all come to nothing. Marnie's a vacuous amalgam, not a character; she's the camera, not a human being. Encounters and relationships don't build through sequence or consequence; almost nothing happens that informs or affects a subsequent scene. Through her, we see the other characters, who are almost universally portrayed by much lesser actors. There's no character arc; the script feels self-indulgent and ultimately trivial. The entire movie is Marnie amused, Marnie bemused, Marnie bored... audience bored.
Bujalski had the pieces to make a remarkable film, but instead he never got the transmission out of neutral.
Since is was a film festival, I got to ask the director (Andrew Bujalski) about the ending (no spoiler here). I found the ending quite disappointing, but he (and others in the audience) seemed to find the ending satisfactory since the end wasn't "pat." His explanation of the low-budget process of making the movie, and his decision to film it on 16mm film in Boston were actually more interesting than the movie itself.
The characters in this film are white college graduates who are happy or unhappy with their lives after graduation. It's hard to root for any of them, they basically come across as a whiny elite who live in nice apartments and complain about their shallow lives... it's pretty forgetable. Bujalski is quite skilled as both an actor and a director, but he needs a more compelling story to tell, where we actually care about what happens in the next scene.
This film examines the awkward period after college and before reality pounces. It isn't neatly plotted, but feels as gawky and half-formed as its post-adolescent characters. It doesn't quite know what to say next, and when it does latch on to an idea it usually evaporates before reaching a conclusion. It looks thrift-shoppy, with grainy photography and a lighting scheme that owes more to Home Depot than the American Society of Cinematographers. It's shot in cruddy apartments and tacky offices.
Writer/director Andrew Bujalski films his shaggy-dog story in a stammering, hesitant style that fits perfectly with his protagonists. It's a wonderfully accurate portrait of aimless youth, which movies love to celebrate as freedom and adventure, but which is actually pretty boring most of the time.
Marnie, the 23-year-old central character -- let's be charitable and call her the heroine -- doesn't have a firm idea of who she is, where she's going or what she hopes for from life. She keeps a notebook full of self-improvement initiatives such as "Go to museum" and "Spend more time outside." She's a slacker's slacker stuck in a quarter-life crisis, and one of the best-rendered characters I've seen in an American movie since "Sideways." The lanky Kate Dollenmayer is wonderful as Marnie, giving her inarticulate dialogue the ring of everyday speech. A nonprofessional actress, she was one of the animators on Richard Linklater's "Waking Life," and she fits perfectly into that appealing, eccentric universe. Marnie can't express a thought without backing up and approaching it several times. Observing her conversations is like watching someone learn to parallel-park.
Marnie is at loose ends, temping and hanging out with old school chums, but unable to commit to any decision that would move her life forward. When she's buzzed, she visits a tattoo parlor, but can't decide whether she wants a geometrical design or a cow. The patient owner eases her out the door.
In a twisted come-on line, she tells an available fellow at a party that she thought about becoming a nun, but hasn't been "completely chaste." Her romantic sights are mainly set on Alex (Christian Rudder), who continually half-flirts with her before dancing away. Still, she claims to have a boyfriend when a drab co-worker (Bujalski) asks her out. They have a series of non-dates, cringe-inducing affairs in which polite chat can't disguise the lack of a spark between them.
Alex has a couple of coffee dates with Marnie, too, and she comes alive in his presence, revealing a goofy sense of humor and confidence she can't tap into under other circumstances. Unfortunately, he's just stringing her along. The film builds to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment when Marnie sees him in a new light.
"Funny Ha Ha" will exasperate mainstream moviegoers, but patient viewers will find it insightful and funny and sad. It's destined to have a long life in many a video store's "cult-classics" section.
I've seen much better work from 6th graders on a class project with a VHS cam. This film should never have seen the cinema. Its distribution is a testament to the fact that anything can and will be made and marketed. Absolutely dreadful.
Floating, indecision, the indefinite: This is the gray arena of Funny Ha Ha. The surprise is how the movie comes together and gets under your skin before you even know why you should give a damn. What seems improvised and random turns out to be controlled, at times cunningly shaped, and the surface of nonsequiturs and random shrugs conceals fairly intense emotionsthe emotions of self-consciously cool, easy, inarticulate people afraid to pin anything down. The nonaction is set (in what appears to be Cambridge, Boston, and Somerville) in midsummer and has a midsummer formlessnessan extension of the kind of languor you feel in those hazy dog days before the sudden hardness and definition of fall.
Dollenmayer becomes more and more fun to read. A young woman with long limbs and sleepy eyes on a big, open face, she's just the sort of beauty whose self-effacing vibe would make her less than magnetic to really handsome guys and madly irresistible to nerdswho think that maybe, just maybe, they'd have a shot. The one she attracts is played by the director, who makes himself look very unprepossessing, indeed. In fact, he's cringe-worthy. The character he plays, Mitchell, tries to make a virtue of his self-deprecation: Loathing himself is obviously all he has to think about. He's so unappealing that it really would be a sign of self-disrespect for Marnie to go to bed with him. Fortunately, he's too lame even to press his case. But she'd be no better off with adorable Alex, whose boneless diffidence seems increasingly selfish and calculated.
Funny Ha Ha is a bit of a stunt. How can intelligent people, even slackers, be this vaporous? No one talks about life, the world, politics, music, moviesanything concrete. But out of this vaporousness, and within the narrow parameters he has set, Bujalski has made an indelible film...
by David Edelstein, Slate.com
Has anyone who watched this ever seen Woody Allen's "Manhattan"? you will be interested in the parallels.
This was filmed primarily in Allston and Cambridge, and I agree with an early reviewer, who stated that a mirror image of his own single life there was reflected. Imagine each person living in The Back Bay or South End with a similar story. After all everyone has experienced the void of dating, working in Boston,(or any metro area city) and going home alone on your birthday. Not exactly earth shattering.
Kate Dollenmayer is not bad as the primary character, but Andrew Bujalski has so many Allen-like mannerisms, it is almost embarrassing to watch. The only members of the audience who will not pick this out would have to be 17 years old, at most.
There are a few decent scenes, the awkwardness Kate feels with an old boyfriend, the vacuous conversation at a keg party, but really; is this considered different?. If it is, then next time you or I go to the supermarket we should tag along someone with a handy cam, start a conversation, and we too would be considered a writer/director.
I honestly felt like I'd been taken for a ride, this movie is so bad it feels like one big practical joke on the viewer.
The library that I work at purchased a copy of the movie based on a couple of positive reviews it received. Well, the movie might have played well for some very open minded critics, but the mainstream Americans I talked to purely hated it. And I can see why. It's amateurishly photographed (everything's easy to see and in focus so I'm not going to knock it much in that department), it's not laugh out loud funny, the plot is nominal, the dialog borders on being inarticulate, the characters aren't particularly likable, and it lacks conclusion.
But, having seen it, what it does have going for it, is that a fair deal of it does feel very real and down to earth. I was happy to see that most of the characters weren't the typical simplistic sex obsessed of comedies geared to this age range... It had a certain charm for all its subtly and I thought many of the performances worked well enough. That being said, this really isn't for everybody.
I'd dare say it's for a very small crowd. If you're a fan of Jarmush, then I'd take a chance on this. If not, know what you're getting into.
Bujalski's cast of characters is made up entirely of white urban youth in their early to mid 20's - that awkward period in life after an individual has finished college yet before he has moved on to building his own career and family. Given what appears to be their first real taste of freedom and independence, the characters do little but sit around, get drunk, and talk about their romantic relationships, but Bujalski observes all this without hysteria and judgment, thereby lending the film the aura of real life being caught on film. The focal point is an attractive young woman named Marnie (Kate Dollenmayer) who drinks a bit too much, seems vaguely directionless and lacking in energy, and is somewhat inexperienced in the ways of love, but who, nevertheless, seems reasonably well grounded and knows her own limits as a person.
"Funny Ha Ha," despite its occasional raggedness and self-indulgence, is blessedly free of contrivance and melodramatics. These may not be the most goal-oriented or socially-conscious youth we've ever encountered in the movies, but neither are they the most troubled or self-destructive. They seem like pretty ordinary kids living in the moment and only vaguely aware that there's a world outside of themselves that they are destined to become a part of in the very near future.
The beauty of the dialogue rests in its ability to capture with uncanny accuracy the way people in the real world actually speak. The characters interact in ways that are genuine and believable, and life just seems to be unfolding as we watch it on screen. This is due in small measure to the fine performances from a cast of virtual unknowns who know how to appear relaxed, honest and natural in front of the camera.
With its improvisational and off-the-cuff film-making style and its abrupt, the-camera-just-ran-out-of-film ending, "Funny Ha Ha" makes us feel as if we are eavesdropping on the daily lives of a handful of relative strangers. Lucky for us, they turn out to be people in whom we can see something of ourselves reflected, and with whom we enjoy spending our time.
To see what I mean about film being a visual medium, go watch KOYANISQATSI and POWAQQATSI. They have no actors or talking, but they are two of the finest films ever made.
Funny Ha Ha is a waste, and if it is indeed the "citizen kane" of mumblecore, I will be staying away from the entire genre.
First let me explain something, editing together crappy footage until you reach a point near 90 minutes does not equal a film. Basically thats what happened on this film.
The plot follows Marnie, since the actress who plays Marnie can't act we are immediately bored. But since Marnie is around other people who can't act the director is hoping that we won't notice, that perhaps by proximity it will appear that everyone can act. It doesn't work, because I have seen other films, therefore I understand acting.
I have seen my fair share of low budget crap, I used to review short films. So I have developed a taste for what works and what doesn't in the arena of up and comers. I can confidently say this film is a total waste of time, I checked it out from my LIBRARY FOR FREE, and still felt ripped off. I didn't even spend money to see this and I felt ripped off, that should tell you something.
Firstly, nobody in the film can act...and I mean that kindly. Ms. Dollenmayer also has the misfortune to be rather plain (also being kind here). I could see the film 11 times and not pick her out of a line up.
But mainly, why make this film? It seems to be about a girl who is in a summer doldrum, trying to find a job and a boyfriend. I have a suggestion for this character: "Put on some makeup, brush your hair, make a quick trip to the GAP and grow a personality". We have all been in similar situations, some of us did something about it and some just wallowed in self pity, waiting for the miracle that never came. My point is that, while this seemingly angst ridden premise may seem quite profound and meaningful for the kids who spent 3 weeks doing what they normally do and filming it, as a story, it lacks direction, tension and above all, it's boring to other people. There is no story arc, and more importantly, I could not work up a bit of interest in these characters, what they were doing or where they may end up.
It would be difficult to write a spoiler for this film, as there is none. To me, the entire project was spoiled when this over eager, under talented lot, somehow got the $67.25 to actually make it. I sincerely wish them well and hope that their real lives take a turn for the serious.
Even if one were to accept that he was shooting a low budget movie with no plot and no script what I cannot understand is why the directing was so poor, why create an impression that we were watching a home movie with shaky hands and bad background lighting? Surely, even secondary school students' work is better than this.
It appears that this was simply a private joke and someone released it publicly by mistake. However, it still doesn't explain the award.