Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mumble in the Karl Jungle

As much as I hate adding “core” to any verb or adjective in order to describe an art movement, director Andrew Bujalski’s self-coined mumblecore is aptly fitting. Considering I finished the movie less than thirty minutes ago, along with having no other mumbling core tastes on my palate, I can’t decide whether it’s a refreshing and creative technique, or a pompous grasp for recognition. Either way, Funny Ha Ha contains some if not the most realistic dialogue I have ever heard. Unlike most screenplays, this movie throws aside the cardinal cinematic rule of excluding “I don’t knows”, “I means”, “You knows”, and “likes.” Characters will literally mumble, searching for words as they try to express something meaningful when the situation is painstakingly cumbersome.

For instance, in a great scene between leading actress Marnie, after she discovers her best friend Alex has gotten married days after her feelings towards him are revealed, the two talk outside of her apartment. Considering most of the dialogue overlaps, I did my best to type it out:

Marnie: I should probably get back to bed

Alex: Don’t do that, I mean

Marnie: I mean…


Marnie: What’s…

Alex: Well, I don’t know, everything’s just complicated


Marnie: I’m sure it is

Alex: Surprisingly

Marnie: Yeah

Alex: Yeah

Marnie: I mean, I mean, anything like that is complicated

While in any reader’s eye this dialogue would be aimless and redundant, the scene captures the essence of confused emotions minus the Hollywood sugarcoating. Without a doubt, this movie will reveal how fake “real” dialogue is; it overlaps, improvisation is abundant, and pauses arise at apparently spontaneous though perfectly positioned moments.

Funny Ha Ha does not play as a movie but rather as a documentary film. Yet the interactions between the characters are so realistic that there’s no other direction to point rather than Bujalski's brilliant writing and exceptional preparation.

Unfortunately, I think that while this movie is good, its only because nothing like it has been produced before (as of late). Like a perfect equation, the combination of low-production quality, terrible sound and sub-par acting compliment the naturalist dialogue and force it out of its immediate pomposity and into a snapshot of sensible romantic frustration.

Nonetheless, the use of non-actors in exceptionally prepared roles provides endless moments of youthful love and friendship that any viewer can relate to. This movie shows that real life rarely contains glorious moments of endearing and well-planned speeches. Often the “I don’t knows”, “I means” and pauses say just enough.

NOTE: In the behind the scenes documentary of David Mamet’s Homicide, Joe Montegna says that people often come up to him and rave about how “real” Mamet’s dialogue is, when actually its extremely structured and full of rhythm. If you want to understand how fake “good” dialogue is (i.e. Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, Woody Allen), watch this movie and tell me you don't want to try it.