Monday, January 09, 2006

The other day I watched Funny Ha Ha, this tiny little indie movie about some people wandering around their early twenties. It was pretty good. There were moments that were excruciating, conversations that went nowhere but continued for waaaaay toooo loooong, but it did manage to capture a certain kind of ridiculousness while also pointing out the ridiculousness of the ridiculousness itself. You know? And it was so homemade, it felt like the film was spliced together at the kitchen table. It never felt like anyone was acting, but it also never felt like a documentary... it just kind of felt right, and so the infuriating pieces wouldn't have made sense if they had been less irritating.

Sometimes when I watch things like this I wonder why it's even fun to watch stupid scenarios that are really close to your own life acted out on screen. It's not like I really want to relive awkward conversations or drunken nights or bad dates or crappy jobs, or like I need to sit around watching the eerily similar tedium of someone else's life on a Friday night. Maybe it is just like watching a train wreck, and you can't look away. But it's not, because it's not actually that horrible. Is it kind of oddly comforting to know that your life can be approximated or portrayed with such accuracy? I don't know. It's not that I think we're always looking for mirrors of ourselves in art, but there's something satisfying about it when it's done right.

I felt this way about Jason Schwartzman's character in Shop Girl... he was so perfect(ly horrific) that it almost hurt, but it made me love the movie. Though that was different from Funny Ha Ha because the people in that movie were glamorous professional actors, so there was a level of detachment where you could just appreciate the artistry of the movie or the accuracy of the imitation. Where it could just be entertainment. In Funny Ha Ha, it just seemed like this is who these people were, that even if they were playing characters, their real lives were really similar to what they were acting out. Though there's obviously an artistry in that, too. Really, I think it must be hard to do that kind of acting, to know that you're essentially playing yourself, to carefully pause and scratch your nose and shift your weight and say "I don't know" a lot, in conscious imitation of yourself and all your dumb tics that your acting job means owning up to.

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