Funny Pages – Movie Review
Few movies have the moxie to have their main character not only flawed, but remorselessly dull, constantly boring: even less so when that lead is arguably the closest thing to an immediately identifiable character. It is therefore with funny pages and its protagonist, Daniel Zolghadri, as the young rising artist Robert – who goes up the ass, that is.
Although “protagonist” isn’t the right word, as few characters clash as quickly as Robert. A talented illustrator with bad influences, he’s the kind of comic book fan who will poke fun at Marvel and DC while waxing lyrics on the line art of a Tijuana bible, or blame his only friend, Miles ( Emanuel), of having scammed. bean world. Probably the only reason that slacker Holden Caulfield doesn’t call people “phonies” is because he thinks it’s outdated. He is looking for a kind of artistic purity and he seems to find it in Wallace (Maher), a former color separator for Image Comics.
It’s a rare major role for veteran actor Maher (more recently known as Black Pete in Our flag means death), which eventually creeps into the story once Robert has already messed up his life in an impressive way. Dysfunctional and deeply selfish, he both refuses to have Robert’s puppy eyes on him and wants to profit from this misplaced hero worship. All the while, he’s the walking embodiment of seething self-loathing seeping through every frame.
First director Kline has his eye on the kind of faces previous directors have scouted for how they embrace their bulbous, saggy, salient weirdness: like Charlie Kaufman’s Stephen Adly Guirgis Synecdoche, New York and Todd Solondz Palindromes, as Robert’s high school art teacher, Mr. Katano, whose untimely death is what ultimately motivates his student to leave and embrace the whole “starving artist in an attic” mythos. Only it’s not really an attic, but a converted boiler room in a basement in Trenton, run like a sweaty house by the friendly but creepy Barry (Wright), who sits in his underwear watching movies that a friend burned to CD-ROM for him.
It’s a de-romanticized version of another journey into underground comics, Terry Zwigoff’s oddly brilliant 2001 adaptation of Daniel Clowes ghost world, in which Thora Birch’s carefully disaffected goth hooks up with Steve Buscemi’s nerdy record collector. But there’s no gloss here as Kline revels in the gross physique of his characters: Barry’s sweat, Miles’ acne, Wallace’s cleft lip, and scruffy Larry Fine. everything of Mitchell Wenig (instantly recognizable as one of the debt settlement siblings of Uncut Gemsdirected by the production duo the Safdie brothers).
It’s all deliberately grotesque, but comic book readers will be pleasantly surprised at the degree of compassion and understanding of culture Kline portrays. The framework towards the millennium puts funny pages at this time when a new snobbery was born around high-end reprints of alternative comics, while the selection of Image (still “the other guy” in the industry) and Color Separator (the lowest in the bottom) are easter eggs that add richness to this story of teenage pomposity.