29 October 2007

Funny Ha Ha

Next time someone complains about about a movie not being realistic, tell them to rent Funny Ha Ha. It's realistic. It's too realistic. It's the perfect wedding of form and content. It's a painfully awkward and apathetic movie about painfully awkward and apathetic people.

The main character, Marnie, is an aimless and vaguely depressed 23 year old who has graduated college and is, in her own words, 'just kind of drifting along'. Marnie is a stunning representative of what is known as Generation Q, the legion of hyper-conscious yet largely apathetic youth (though the youth in the linked article, at least, have high paying jobs...). It's not that she doesn't _want_ to do something more meaningful, it's that she can't seem to figure out how. There's a great scene where she makes a To Do list for herself, with entries like "go to the museum", and "learn chess". She obediently sets out to do these things, and seems to kind of realize how completely stupid and pointless they are. It's kind of devastating to watch her and her friends move through the world, completely unable to grow up and do something worthwhile with themselves. They are desperately trying to figure out how to be grown-ups, and for the most part, they're failing. So they kind of flail around, getting married, cooking dinners together, going through the motions, but that's the thing - it's all posturing. This is brilliantly paralleled by their largely vapid conversations, many of which are stuck in some kind of fantasy realm, or are ridiculously meta. For instance, another great scene, when a terrifically dweeby guy is trying to hit on Marnie, and goes with "So hypothetically, if I were to ask you out on a date, what would you say?" and they actually discuss this for awhile, then he says, ok, wait, so not hypothetically, I mean, I know we're just having dinner as friends right now, but would you like to go out on a date sometime? Jesus, it's so painful to watch. Because the thing is, these kids mean well, they really do. They're just dumb kids. The tragedy of it, though, is that they're not kids anymore, and it's actually kind of difficult to figure out what in the hell they could do with themselves.

Kind of brilliant, and fascinating to watch in a train wreck sort of way. Not at all compelling or entertaining, just, well, sadly accurate. It's so well done that I honestly can't tell whether the people who made it are just like the characters, or whether they just managed to somehow brilliantly portray them. I mean, obviously the guy who made the movie is skilled, it's well done, but it's just not much fun to watch. Nothing really happens. There is no redemption here, and I wonder if that's because the guy thinks that there really isn't any, or just thinks that his characters are incapable of seeing any? It's the same problem I was confronted with in my review of Clerks 2, actually. Basically, it's a movie that is a totally realistic portrayal of a certain sub-group. As such, it is hard to say whether or not it is ironic - whether the person making the movie actually endorses this worldview or is depicting it in order to say something about it. Is there some kind of critique of these people buried in the film or no? An interesting example of this in literature, incidentally, is a Polish novel by Waclaw Berent called Prochno - I believe the English translation is called Deadwood?).

The one odd thing about this movie is that it is set in the past - Marnie has a landline and an answering machine, and even uses a pay phone at one point, although at least one other character has a cell phone. This is kind of odd, because the characters seem so very contemporary. I guess this suggests that it isn't, in fact, cell phones, MySpace and the blogosphere that are to blame for the predicament of today's young adults, eh?

Anyhow, so once again, interesting to watch, but not exactly entertaining...

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