The characters of 27-year-old
writer-director Andrew Bujalskis debut feature,
Funny Ha Ha
a gaggle of recently graduated Bostonian college
students express themselves in a generational vernacular that favors such willfully
vague terms as really, stuff and like. Their behavior is prone to sudden
impulsive gestures, like dropping a bottle of beer from a second-floor balcony,
kissing a girlfriends best friend, or running off and eloping with a supposed
ex. Anything to prevent the ions in the air from becoming too static, too serious
in a word, too grown-up. If that sounds like territory previously claimed by
early-1990s Hollywood concoctions like Singles
and Reality Bites,
so be it. But there is, in any one scene of Bujalskis film, more lived-in
truth than can be found in its precursors.
With a dollop more self-confidence, Marnie (the radiantly shy Kate Dollenmayer) could have most guys at hello. Instead, shes a girl friend to many and girlfriend to none a lack of commitment that also applies to her career, where she drifts from dreary temp job to dreary temp job. Marnie does pine for lanky computer programmer Alex (Christian Rudder), to whom she once confessed her feelings in a moment of drunken honesty. Now Alex is on the rebound, but hes still not interested. Dave (Myles Paige) might be interested, though he shouldnt be, given that hes in a long-term relationship with Marnies friend Rachel (Jennifer L. Schaper). Marnies dorky fellow temp, Mitchell (Bujalski), is definitely interested, though Marnie less so in him. And though she may be no ones idea of a hero, the indecisive Marnie does throw herself heroically, time and again, into that mysterious void that is being young and smart and completely unsure of yourself.
Like two of his acknowledged influences, John Cassavetes and Mike Leigh (to which
one might add the French director Jean Eustache, whose The Mother and
Id bet is a Bujalski favorite), Bujalski takes a
sledgehammer to the carefully ordered surfaces and dramatic conventions of narrative
cinema, favoring instead an unpredictability in which the crosscurrents of quotidian
life collide on the screen in a series of brilliantly alive patterns. This isnt
improvisation, but rather an adroitly achieved randomness the perfect syntax
for a generation-defining work about a generation marked by its very lack of definition.
FUNNY HA HA
| Written and directed by ANDREW BUJALSKI | Produced by ETHAN VOGT | Released by Goodbye Cruel Releasing | At One Colorado Cinemas and Sunset 5.