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Funny Because It's True

"It's had a very peculiar life span—nothing that I could have predicted," muses writer-director Andrew Bujalski on his debut feature, Funny Ha Ha, which finally gets a theatrical release this week after two years of festival and cable appearances. A breezily plotted movie of fumbling pauses and awkward silences, Funny Ha Ha is an endearingly wry look at twentysomething Bostonians struggling to make the jump to post-grad life. "There's a nice overlap between us being nonprofessional actors who don't particularly know what we're doing and the subject of the film," says Bujalski. "You can use that flailing energy that we had and apply it to the story." Much of the energy comes from Kate Dollenmayer, whose Marnie appears in nearly every scene. Bujalski wrote the character for Dollenmayer, his roommate while he was working on the script, and of her note-perfect performance, he says, "I knew that she had a presence and a real charisma, but I couldn't have known that she's also a technically gifted actor. She's capable of repeating something 10 times and having it sound just as fresh every time."

Audience perceptions of Funny Ha Ha have varied wildly—Bujalski recalls one crowd laughing throughout "like it was a Marx Brothers movie," while others have responded more reflectively—which may be why he's hesitant to describe his follow-up, Mutual Appreciation (recently shown at South by Southwest), as a comedy. Centered on a musician in search of a new band, the Brooklyn-shot film was made, like its predecessor, on the cheap with nonprofessional actors and a skeleton crew, a method Bujalski fears may be unsustainable. "Of course I'd love to do another film," he says. "If I could find a way to keep pulling these off, I'd be delighted."

 
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