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  Funny Ha Ha Growing Pains
Year: 2002
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Stars: Kate Dollenmeyer, Christian Rudder, Myles Paige, Andrew Bujalski, Jennifer L. Schaper, Lissa Patton Rudder, Thomas Hansen, Justin Rice
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Marnie (Kate Dollenmeyer) has recently graduated from college, but is having trouble adjusting. Tonight, slightly drunk, she goes to a tattoo artist to get a tattoo, but as with so much in her life, she's not sure what she wants. The artist offers her a book of designs and she settles on a Celtic one, or maybe a cow, but the artist realises she is inebriated and tells her there's no way he's going to risk being thrown up on when he gets out the needle. So Marnie doesn't get her tattoo, but what does she get? What satisfaction can she wrestle out of life?

Not much, is the answer to that, in writer and director Andrew Bujalski's opening entry into the mumblecore movement of the early 2000s. Criticised for a meandering tone, lack of any real plot and characters who would drive most people up the wall if they had to spend around an hour and a half watching any of them, perhaps they missed the point. This was an attempt to put life as Bujalski knew it on the big screen, although it might have been more at home in one of those characters' DVD collections where they could admire its authenticity.

Funny Ha Ha (although there's precious little laughter-inducing about it, to be honest) sets out to examine what happens when the security of college stops, and middle class twentysomethings have to face up to getting a job, settling down with the right partner and think about growing up. Only, as we can see here, that's not something they wish to think about and Marnie is more reluctant to commit herself than most. Never less than convincing, Dollenmeyer slouches and sighs her way through scenes designed to make Marnie uncomfortable, with her better qualities only occasionally peeking out from under those curtains of hair.

First, there's the job situation. Although she has qualifications now, she has had to rely on temping to get by, so nothing stimulating there, or with any particular prospects for that matter. Secondly, there's her friends who are all pairing off with each other leaving Marnie as the gooseberry at their gatherings, although they always make the effort to have her feel welcome. Thirdly: romance and she still has feelings for Alex (Christian Rudder), who is newly single but utterly unreliable, so unreliable in fact that he leaves her hanging when it looks like they have a relationship developing.

These people take forever to get to the point so that it's a miracle that they get anything done at all with their hesitant chatter, skirting round the issues and blundering their way into admissions of how they really feel. There's no shortage of awkward moments as, for example, Marnie is courted by one of the guys at a place of work she has just left, a chap named Mitchell (played by Bujalski himself) but knows that while she can be friends with him, she can't take it any further than that; he's nice enough, but not boyfriend material (as proven by his passive aggressive "outburst"). And so it goes on, another birthday passes and Marnie has to face up to not being as carefree as she once was, but maybe she'll face up to that tomorrow. The dissatisfaction positively oozes from every frame, but so does a certain sweetness of personality, difficult to identify initially, but there all the same.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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