I’m doing things a little backwards here, but I don’t mind because I’m having fun anyway. I actually discovered filmmaker Andrew Bujalski through a movie that he made after “Funny Ha Ha” – Mutual Appreciation – that played SXSW just this past March. I fell in love with the characters and the casual, fly-on-the-wall filmmaking that pulled me into the slice of life of these entertaining and all too familiar twenty-somethings. So it was with immense pleasure that I took a step backwards to take a look at Bujalski’s previous feature, “Funny Ha Ha”, a film in the same vein that takes a documentary style look at a fictional slice of life of a group of twenty-somethings trying to get their footing in the world. And, like “Mutual Appreciation”, “Funny Ha Ha” is the kind of film that you just don’t want to end.
“Funny Ha Ha” focuses on 24-year-old Marnie as she struggles with her awkward and often stagnant love life while wandering between menial jobs. Marnie’s good friend Alex, a guy who she’s had a crush on for a while, has recently become single. This would normally mean good things for Marnie, except that Alex is a pretty strange, hard to figure out character, which ends up creating more awkward heartaches for her than ever before. Add that to her awkward relationships with a few other men, including a weird little office temp she used to work with who has the uncanny superpower of making every situation as uncomfortable as possible, and you can say that Marnie’s life is kind of a mess. Who knew the life of a slacker could be so complicated?
If you don’t recognize yourself in this movie then you more than likely recognize someone you know and that’s where Bujalski’s major talent lies, in creating these fictional stories and characters that are so grounded in reality that you could swear that you’re watching a documentary. But Bujalski isn’t satisfied just mirroring any old life experience, he focuses on the awkward relationships and occurrences in life that many an audience member will be able to relate to, sometimes in sheer horror. Bujalski’s cast also does plenty of their own heavy lifting in making this film pop. Made up of unknown, non-professional actors, this cast proves that casting friends and acquaintances, as Bujalski did for this film, can work, but it definitely helps having people who can be comfortable in front of the camera and in this case be themselves. There’s tons of new talent to be discovered here.