Sunday, 11 October 2009

FUNNY HA HA (dir: Andrew Bujalski)

FUNNY HA HA (dir: Andrew Bujalski)

Despite already having seen Old Joy and In Search Of A Midnight Kiss this was my first explicit exposure to the genre of Mumblecore. After being raised on the super exciting period of American independent cinema in the early nineties and how revitalising it felt to the art form, in Mumblecore I was hoping for much of the same.

Funny Ha Ha is a movie seemingly designed with the sole purpose to make the viewer cringe and squirm. Written and directed by Andrew Bujalski this was his debut effort from 2002 and it definitely manages to accurately capture a certain subculture of our time.

The film centres around Marnie, a girl fresh out of college and currently drifting through her equivalent of what I referred to as my post education “wilderness years” while trying to decide and settle down with one direction or another.

The movie begins with Marnie looking into getting a tattoo. In making her decision she is indecisive as early into proceedings her persona is established, not least when she admits she is a little drunk in the tattoo parlour. Yes, she is wet.

From here the movie cuts to a conversation where another girl describes how she has just lost her McJob and is now just “wandering the earth.” Haven’t we had all this before in the books of Douglas Coupland and movies such as Slacker? Indeed in slacker style Marnie begins to wander through the movie herself, fortunately bumping into various interesting friends/colleagues with invitations/situations that keep things remaining noteworthy and somehow perpetual. Seldom does the pace ever pull out of first gear but that is not to say it does not remain realistic.

In her moping semi depressed state Marnie decides to throw into the mixer that she fancies some guy called Alex which causes ripples in her small circle and thus something finally begins to transpire. Things however become garbled and confused early as Alex gets wind of said feelings and decides to contact Marnie in a half arrogant half curious manner. With things so blatant they soon get nipped in the bud. Call it fear of commitment. Dear air collides with pregnant pauses.

Not unattractive, even though she acts it, the way Marnie rolls through is as a magnet to minor drama. She eventually winds up dating some other guy who she expresses little interest in which only causes her to continue acting childish while the guy tries to force things in the most pathetic manner. Obviously it doesn’t last. From here more fumbles and more McJobs ensue as she makes a drunken job out of weighing up her options, acting distracted and eternally annoying. She gets away with it though; she is white, middle class and pretty.

The recurring theme of the movie is a kind of perverse celebration and necessary justification of the mundane for these people, making the weird elements of the modern setting/existence almost exciting as new tales of ordinary madness in what unfortunately turns out to be a duller method than the previous.

There is something very tangible about this movie, something that is very now and heavily/strongly reflects the probable existence of the viewer (the select few). As a result the film is almost able to serve as some kind of user manual (and warning) for the end user, to be taken as an indicator and guide of how not to act and what mistakes not to make.

Ultimately almost by mistake the theme/topic of the piece/day is acting flaky (and where it gets you). As Marnie begins to settle down and into acting like an adult things remain just as drab and staid as at the beginning only now without the headaches and drama. And everyone remains truly guarded right to the end.

I like watching movies that I feel I could have made. That is Mumblecore.