First, the salient facts: Funny Ha Ha was shot in 20 days, acted by amateurs, and funded by kindness. It's a slacker, twentysomething, identity-driven movie, landing awards and accolades for director Andrew Bujalski, all of which leaves a certain impression in the mind, which is wrong.
For one, the characters: You'd expect them to be cooler than you. They could be weirder, funnier, better looking, whatever, but these are the schlubs you typically escape from by going to the movies — your co-workers, your lingering university pals, the guy next door with the server in his closet. They aren't entertainment. And that's exactly the point. Somehow Bujalski has crafted a compelling picture about these people, who are, all kidding aside, you.
And while Funny is fiercely real life, it's seen through a hangover. The lighting, the sound, the film quality — all are a notch above annoying, but perfect for the movie. There's a bit of forced acting. A snippet of music. Sets that scream “friend of the director.” The plot is a small thing, centering around 23-year-old Marnie, played exquisitely by Kate Dollenmayer, who's looking for love, but not really. She takes a few risks, then makes a list of self-improving to-dos, which she knocks off one at a time. Hollywood would montage the crap out of this, but here everything's lovingly cataloged: Marnie not drinking. Marnie playing chess. Marnie shooting baskets. She's not looking for much — a nice guy, a good job, perhaps a cure for depression.
Halting speech is the norm; sentences start and predicates be damned. Marnie says a few words, gets confused, stumbles; someone interrupts, apologizes, stops. There are many slow slides into awkward silence, which the camera lingers on like my post-college consciousness. It's happened to everybody. It's happened to you. Funny Ha Ha is one of those rare movies that manages to document our undramatic, warts-and-all life and still be gripping as hell.