As rude and unappealing Funny Pages can be, it’s a brutally honest and funny character study of a young artist who channels trauma and grief into his aspirations to be a successful cartoonist. A true tale of an unlikely opportunist.
After witnessing the death of his art mentor, wiseacre Robert (Daniel Zolghadri of Eighth Grade and Alex Strangelove) makes a sharp academic pivot and decides to drop out of school to pursue the career of a professional cartoonist with steadfast eagerness to secure a place and a paycheque to make his dream come true. His parents (Josh Pais, Maria Dizzia) disapprove, but begrudgingly accept Robert’s choices knowing they won’t be able to intercept their son’s stubbornness. In the “real world”, Robert finds the support he’s looking for, and even finds a connection to his dream industry (a temperamental former colourist played very well by Vulgar’s Matthew Maher).
Robert’s unwavering attitude impresses some and annoys others, and writer/director Owen Kline (working with producers Benny and Josh Safdie) makes sure those relationships are clarified. The people in Funny Pages are opinionated and expressive, which creates humour and hostility. Zolghadri portrays Robert with entertaining confidence that helps build this interesting character and compliments the supporting cast. Meanwhile, underneath Robert’s self-certified assurance are disturbed feelings that are unknowingly being distracted to prevent a much needed self-realization. When the world comes crashing down on Robert during very stressful and “schadenfreudian” moments, we see that struggle arrive to the forefront of Robert’s fantasies and delusions.
Funny Pages won’t be for everyone but, for me, it was a quotable and savagely clever gut buster.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie