×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Funny Ha Ha

Andrew Bujalski's "Funny Ha Ha" uses the uncertain future of a smart but shy, post-graduate woman as the launching pad for an observant and unpretentious film with roots more in Cassavetes than Sundance-style showbiz. Besides being a surefire fest item, the film could have a bracing effect on adventurous auds and young filmmakers.

With:
Marnie - Kate Dollenmayer Alex - Christian Rudder Dave - Myles Paige Rachel - Jennifer L. Schaper Susan - Lissa Patton Rudder Wyatt - Marshall Lewy Mitchell - Andrew Bujalski

Andrew Bujalski’s quietly impressive “Funny Ha Ha” uses the uncertain future of a smart but shy, post-graduate Boston woman as the launching pad for a beautifully observant and wholly unpretentious film with roots more in Cassavetes than Sundance-style showbiz. Made under the sway of the DIY (Do It Yourself) art movement, pic is a deliberate throwback to a much earlier American indie period, when filmmakers shot on 16mm, recorded in mono and didn’t bother with a production company moniker. Besides being a surefire fest item, the film could have a bracing effect on adventurous auds and young filmmakers alike given the right distrib handling.

“Funny Ha Ha” serves as a memorable debut for first-time thesp Kate Dollenmayer, whose Marnie becomes unselfconsciously emblematic of an entire generation of over-educated, under-employed American youth.

Marnie is first seen drunk at a tattoo parlor, but she’s hardly some “bad girl”; rather, she seems to take each step through life gingerly, not quite sure where to walk next. Randomness seems to rule her existence: She runs into friends Dave and Rachel (Myles Paige, Jennifer L. Schaper) and tags along with them to dinner, where she admits to Rachel that she has a crush on Alex (Christian Rudder) but instinctively — and, it eventually turns out, correctly — senses that it will go nowhere.

Film introduces characters and situations, and then allows them to percolate naturally to the surface. At her new temp office job, Marnie is seated alongside nice but ultra-nebbishy Mitchell (Bujalski), whose awkward way of showing interest in her doesn’t emerge until his desperation move on her during her last day on the job.

The subsequent dates between Marnie and Mitchell surely rank among the most painfully awkward and real encounters between the sexes in recent movies, culminating in the sort of thoughtless and spontaneous behavior that goes on all the time in real life, but almost never on screen.

Bujalski’s improv approach is gracefully married with a style that is not overly-dramatic, and therefore seems just a hair short of pure documentary. Even unexpected encounters that other directors may have exploited for intense dramatic effect, such as a drunk Dave suddenly kissing Marnie in a car, play out and then fade away with the natural pulse of everyday life.

Just as underplayed are myriad character details, such as Marnie’s evident interest in religion, that are gently observed but never underlined.

The non-pro cast appears inspired from the first frame, none more so than Dollenmayer, who invests Marnie with a genuine expression of innocence concealing a certain adult wisdom that keeps her out of serious trouble. Dollenmayer is uncommonly attuned to Marnie’s moment-by-moment responses –and knack for confused and confusing conversations, the film’s constant source of wit.

Tech package couldn’t be less slick, and this becomes the movie’s true badge of honor.

Funny Ha Ha

Production: Produced by Ethan Vogt. Directed, written. edited by Andrew Bujalski.

Crew: Camera (color, 16 mm), Matthias Grunsky; sound, Jason Cho, Kyle Gilman, John Koczera , Valery Lyman, Myles Paige , Justin Rice; associate producers, Morgan Faust, Hagai Shaham . Reviewed at IFP Los Angeles Film Festival (Narrative), May 23, 2003. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: Marnie - Kate Dollenmayer Alex - Christian Rudder Dave - Myles Paige Rachel - Jennifer L. Schaper Susan - Lissa Patton Rudder Wyatt - Marshall Lewy Mitchell - Andrew Bujalski

More Film

  • Aquaman 2018

    'Aquaman' Crosses $250 Million at Foreign Box Office

    Things are going swimmingly at the box office for “Aquaman” as the Warner Bros.’ superhero flick hits another major milestone overseas. James Wan’s take on the ruler of the seven seas just passed $250 million internationally, and a weekend haul of $126.4 million from 43 territories brings its foreign tally to $261.3 million. “Aquaman” — [...]

  • Mortal Engines

    'Mortal Engines' to Lose More Than $100 Million at Box Office

    “Mortal Engines,” a steampunk fantasy adventure, is also an epic flop. With a budget of just over $100 million and tens of millions in global marketing costs, executives at rival studios estimate that the movie will lose upwards of $100 million. Some even project that number could float to more than $125 million. “Mortal Engines” [...]

  • Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Honored

    Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Named Honorary Argentine Academy Members

    BUENOS AIRES — In a ceremony just before Friday’s prize announcements at Ventana Sur, Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastian Festival, were named honorary members of Argentina’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in a new move for the Academy, out through by its new president, Bernardo [...]

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content