-By Doris Toumarkine

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Director/writer/editor/star Andrew Bujalski's nicely done Funny Ha Ha scores as a farm-league Slackers for a post-college Ivy League crowd trying to figure things out. Shot with a handheld 16mm camera and on a dime, this droll effort is more "Huh?" than "funny ha ha" or just funny, period. As laid-back as a tripod resting against a wall, the film closely follows early-20s Marnie (Kate Dollenmayer) during that period right after graduation when she's coping with temp work, crushes that crash, and friendships that are little more than excuses to look part of the human race.

Living somewhere near the epicenter of Cambridge, Marnie becomes smitten with Alex (Christian Rudder), who seems to be struggling with some inner but not serious demons. The two are part of a larger clique that includes Rachel (Jennifer L. Schaper), Dave (Myles Paige) and Alex's sister Susan (Lissa Patton Rudder,) who are all more grounded than Marnie.

With some maneuvering, Susan brings Marnie and Alex together and all looks promising until Marnie eventually learns that Alex has gone off and gotten married. But at least he helped get Marnie an interesting research job with his professor uncle.

Marnie is crushed by Alex's unexpected defection. Fortunately, geeky Mitchell (filmmaker Bujalski), who is hot for Marnie, has been lurking on the sidelines. They get together and play basketball and chess. It does look promising.

But not for audiences in need of some heft in the films they patronize. Funny Ha Ha does offer engaging performances (especially by Dollenmayer, who inhabits her little lost character) and a sweetness and easy, lazy confidence that few films dare to embrace. (A clue to such an approach may lie in the credits, where Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman is thanked.) The film also captures a certain post-grad angst that crosses generations. But Funny Ha Ha isn't much more than a promising calling card that should take director, cast and crew to the next level. Meanwhile, filmgoers paying for tickets are also supporting these next steps forward. It's charity without pain and well-deserved, especially as this is a self-distribution effort.
-Doris Toumarkine

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