Andrew Bujalski
USA 2002, 89 min

Five minutes, is that so long? Marnie would like to go five minutes without something embarrassing happening to her. But for the beleaguered heroine of Andrew Bujalski’s spot-on exploration of life in the awkward lane, that’s just not possible. Friends who don’t know when to shut up, jobs that are okay at best, and kisses, both unwelcome and unsent: Marnie’s endured them all, uncertain but ever hopeful that someday, all the pieces of her life will come together and everything will fit.

At first blush, Funny Ha Ha may seem like a familiar story—a twenty-something drifting through her life, suffering from unrequited love and a touch of post-college ennui—but Bujalski has a refreshingly original approach. While other directors would lather on the soporific humor or aim for emotional fireworks, Bujalski lingers on life’s quietly uncomfortable moments, like when you run out of conversation on a date and there’s nothing left to do but just look at each other. It’s rich material and Bujalski renders each stilted conversation perfectly, with every “Um” and “Ah” in exactly the right place. As Marnie, Kate Dollenmayer projects a vulnerability and naturalism that is perfectly in harmony with the cliché-free script. Not to be outdone, Bujalski steps in front of the camera himself to play Mitchell, the nicest guy Marnie will probably never go out with. He’s also one of three nominees in the 2004 Independent Spirit Awards Someone to Watch Award.

—Doug Jones, IFP Los Angeles Film Festival