“Isn’t imagination more important than craft?”
“Maybe what sells these days is originality.”
Although the directorial debut of Owen Kline may not directly answer these questions it poses, the very fact that this film exists (and often WORKS) seems to suggest a truth in them: artistic soul and passion will trump that which is, in theory, “the correct way.” Funny Pages plays out like a jazz piece, unconcerned with conventionality but insistent on making itself a unique experience… one that, first and foremost, makes you feel.
The story itself revolves around a teenager (Daniel Zolghadri) who aspires to become a professional cartoonist. With a barely-running car, his sleazy comics, and very little money to his name, he sets off into the world of a starving artist. That’s about all there is to say as far as the plot goes; Funny Pages is less of a typical story and more of a snapshot – how convenient that a picture holds a thousand words.
Even though it skips the situational nostalgia that coming-of-age movies typically utilize, Funny Pages is still very much based in the genre. Instead of taking advantage of its situation to find relatability for audience members, it focuses on the protagonist’s deep and detailed lifestyle. It doesn’t romanticize the idea of a “starving artist” — quite the contrary — but the depiction it provides is vivid nonetheless; it’s grimy, gritty, greasy, upsetting, and will make you feel like you need a shower once the credits roll. It’s not often you get a film that can be entertaining based primarily on its general vibe. This is aided by some natural but unique dialogue and an anxiety-ridden ending that explains the Safdie Brothers serving as producers.
Funny Pages surely won’t be for everyone, but it does prove that originality and imagination can absolutely work better than basic craft. It’s a really good feature debut from Owen Kline, and I look forward to what his future work may hold.
Overall rating: 7/10