Written and Directed by Jeff Grace, Folk Hero & Funny Guy is a bromantic comedy about two very different friends embarking on a road trip. While the premise is admittedly a bit clichéd, the film manages to set itself apart from the rest with an excellent cast, sharp and insightful dialogue, and a wonderful soundtrack. Unfortunately, the film suffers from being a tad bit predictable in the third act, but nevertheless the film has heart and substance that makes me more than willing to recommend it to just about everyone I know.
“…manages to set itself apart from the rest with an excellent cast, sharp and insightful dialogue, and a wonderful soundtrack.”
Alex Karpovsky plays Paul, a struggling comedian newly single after his fiancé’ left him for a DJ. He’s bitter, he has low self-esteem, and he’s extremely close to giving up his dreams of success in exchange for a mundane day job. Paul’s childhood friend Jason (played by Wyatt Russell) is a fairly successful folk singer whose reputation, laid back nature, physical appearance and hipster sensibilities make him a charismatic magnet for women. In an effort to reinvigorate Paul’s waning ambitions, Jason invites him to preform as his opener on his upcoming tour of small-town bars and intimate venues. During an open mic Jason participates in, Paul strikes up a flirty conversation with local musician Bryn (played by Meredith Hagner). In an effort to help Paul get over the dissolution of his engagement, Jason invites Bryn to perform on the tour with them. Watching Jason and Bryn thrive with their performances gives Paul a jealousy complex, leading to conflict that could potentially end their longstanding bond.
First off, Wyatt Russell is one of the most likable leads I’ve seen in recent memory. His character, Jason, exudes charisma and confidence without ever coming off as douchey or pretentious. He plays the titular Folk Hero as a sweetheart who genuinely wants what’s best for his ‘down on his luck’ friend. Alex Karpovsky does a fine job as Paul, but I feel like the character is dreadfully unremarkable. He comes off as being fairly unlikable at times due to his numerous insecurities and victim mentality. I don’t think the film shows enough growth for the character; it’s like he didn’t really learn any sorts of lessons that would potentially make him a better person. I don’t fault Karpovsky for his character’s flaws, the film is totally centered on Paul’s journey and unfortunately it’s just not as solid or compelling as it could be. Meredith Hagner does an excellent job with the character of Bryn, one scene in particular stands out for me towards the end of the film where Jason and Paul are having a bit of a spat and treating Bryn like she’s property for the two to fight over. The character is a strong female presence that serves as a valid voice of reason for several instances. Bryn is a charming character, and Meredith Hagner knocks it out of the park.
“…a solid movie that I think most people will enjoy.”
The film is dramedy at its lightest, and the humor is mostly hits and not a lot of misses. There’s a recurring gag that happens when one of Paul’s jokes about evites keeps bombing, it was funny the first two times they played this, but afterward it became frustrating, pointless, and annoying for me. There’s a scene where Paul and Jason meet Nicole (played by Heather Morris), a woman with plans to lure them into a threesome. The uncomfortable situation elicits a few hearty chuckles due to the absurdity and comedic timing of our leading duo. When the drama kicks in, it’s all predictably built upon Paul being a failure, a loser, a lost cause with women, etc. and his jealousy towards Jason and his success as a musician, his good looks, and his repertoire with women. It would have been nice to explore some of Jason’s hang-ups a bit more, maybe dive into some reasons why he might be jealous of Paul, perhaps. Paul’s jealousy and frustrations just make him out to be a petty character.
The ending left much to be desired; it’s your standard time jump into the near future where all of the drama and fighting are wrapped up neatly with a nod of understanding from far away. I hate these kinds of endings, they’re complete cop-outs. If you want to really impress me, show the characters coming to an understanding. Show me their epiphanies and self-discoveries; don’t just heal everything with a boring time jump. The film’s flaws are very apparent, but they still don’t change the fact that this is a solid movie that I think most people will enjoy. Folk Hero & Funny Guy has a lot of heart; it’s a feel-good movie with a mesmerizing charm that makes it a definite watch.
Folk Hero & Funny Guy (2016) Written and Directed by: Jeff Grace. Starring: Wyatt Russell, Alex Karpovsky, Meredith Hagner, Heather Morris, Michael Ian Black, David Cross.
8 out of 10