FUNNY PAGES (2022)
Release Date: 08/26/22 [Cinemas/VOD]
"A bitingly funny coming-of-age story of a teenage cartoonist who rejects the comforts of his suburban life in a misguided quest for soul."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
It's always unique when a film comes out of nowhere and ends up being a surprise gem. Funny Pages is one of this year's pleasant surprises. Displayed in a rough around its-edges appearance while wearing its low-budget indie heart on its sleeve. Writer/Director Owen Klines' debut feature is a film that deserves to be discovered and appreciated even if some of it feels more-so sketched out than fully drawn and colored.
Funny Pages, a coming of age story about Robert (Daniel Zolghadri) a talented 18-year-old cartoonist who early in the film drops out of his last remaining semester of highschool. Moving out of his upper middle-class suburban home to make it on his own, chasing his dream of being a comic book artist. Zolghadri turns in a memorable performance as the naïve but determined Robert. The character's naivety makes way for the awkward and questionable situations Robert finds himself in during his quest for success and independence. One of the most valid examples of this is a scene where Robert is looking for a place to rent. Viewing a room for rent that seems to be the basement boiler room of an apartment building, its small, hot, has a creepy-looking fish tank, comes with two strange acting older men as roommates, and comes with a strict rule of not being able to tell anybody that he lives there if he decides to. It's a sequence where you would think that all of this would be a giant warning sign, yet Robert decides to live there.
While Robert seems to be okay with being in uncomfortable situations that make for a lot of the movie's biting comedy, it's the course Kline's writing takes in coupling these with various cringe-inducing dramatic moments that make these difficult to watch scenarios prominent. Perhaps more effective is with Kline's direction as he keeps the audience in the film's absurd and anxiety ridden events right along with its main character. When Robert gets a job as a typist for Cheryl (Marcia Debonis), a public defender that he met earlier in the film. He's introduced to the cantankerous Wallace (Matthew Maher), an out of sorts and ill-tempered character, with a chip on his shoulder. While Roberts' interest in Wallace's past career as a cartoonist makes sense for him as a learning experience, it also launches Funny Pages into its shocking and unpredictable final act.
Funny Pages delivers an engrossing story with colorful funny moments from its characters and narrative events that feel ripped out from some of the comic strips its characters are inspired by. Although it's coming of age, narrative works mostly, Funny Pages struggles with what it ultimately wants to say. Robert's rebellious pursuit is interesting to watch, but as the film reaches its conclusion, the intention and impact of the journey not only is unclear to the audience, but to Robert as well. One could view this as possibly the exact intention of the filmmaker, as not all experiences and journeys in life equate to impactful learning exercises. Deliberate or not, its message needed to be more well rounded than the sketched out version delivered.