FUNNY PAGES (2022) l Sphere Films | August 26, 2022 | 86 Mins.
When Robert, a high school student and aspiring cartoonist, rejects the comforts of suburban life, dropping out of school and leaving home, he finds an unwilling teacher and unwitting friend in Wallace — a former low-level comic artist — in this bitingly funny and playfully twisted coming-of-age story.
REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
Funny Pages is an unique approach to the coming of age story, providing a truly cynical approach on growing up, but this ultimately prevents it from being a memorable entry into the overcrowded genre.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I am incredibly hit or miss with A24 productions. Their championing of independent filmmakers and allowing them to see their vision through fruition without interference is a rarity in today’s day and age where far too many headlines out of Hollywood speak of studio inference and dampening of creative freedom. On one hand, they have created some of the most unique and memorable films of the past decade with hits such as Ex Machina, Midsommar, and Minari that I will never tire of watching. But at the same time, many of their films have failed to connect with me as the filmmaker’s vision or story has not been my cup of tea. And unfortunately, that is what Funny Pages ended up being for me. There is nothing bad or weak about Funny Pages, it was just not a film I particularly enjoyed.
The film follows Robert, an aspiring teenage comic book artist who, against his parents’ wishes, drops out of high school and begins to make his own way in the world. This leads him to his first job, as an assistant for a public defender, where he meets an array of interesting characters. However, when one of these individuals has work experience in the comic book industry, Robert blindly sets himself on a misguided journey to chase his dreams which will teach him a tough life lesson.
So often, coming of age stories are wrapped up in an optimistic story of fun and adventure, with an emotional message in the final act. However, Funny Pages takes a very cynical view on growing up. We have a character that is difficult to like, who borders on being an asshole, which is fine for this type of plot as it can allow for great growth. Though, there is not much growth to Robert’s character. Instead, he is placed in truly dark circumstances, where he is being taken advantage of by unstable and unhealthy adults. This creates an emotional response in the audience, as you can’t help but feel sad for Robert as he is truly experiencing some of the worst things life can offer. But the story halts before you can see any sort of growth as a result of these events he is subjected to. Even with a short run time, it feels like we have only seen two thirds of the story and it feels like the ending of Robert’s story was left on the cutting room floor.
In terms of direction and writing, Owen Kline has a clear vision and he delivers exactly that. It's not a flashy presentation by any standards, but it displays his talent and unique voice from start to finish. While Kline tries to instill a comedic tone to the film, not all of the jokes landed for me which kept this film from being the dark, entertaining story it strived to be. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of this particular story, I’m excited to see what Kline does in the future. The performances are all good, with each cast member doing exactly what is required of them while truly helping their characters leap off the page and screen. None of the performances stood out to me as being great, but not a single one felt weak.
There is an audience for this film, and they will no doubt be swept up by Kline’s vision and the dark twist on the coming of age story we have seen tackled multiple times in Hollywood. Though, it just was not for me as I like for my coming of age stories to be a little more fun and pack some emotional growth in the final act, which this film was lacking. Never for a second shying away from the dark version of a coming of age story, Funny Pages is A24 through and through which is destined to be a hit for many cinephiles, and while there is nothing wrong with the film in any sense, it is not a film that will be for everyone.
RATING: 3 out of 5