Folk Hero & Funny Guy


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Wyatt Russell as Jason, Meredith Hagner as Bryn, and Alex Karpovsky as Paul, from the film Folk Hero & Funny Guy.
"Whilst it has something going for it as a study of awkwardness, it never quite takes this far enough to break new ground." | Photo: Nancy Schreiber

Maybe you have to be there.

Some guys are born with it. Some just...aren't. So says Paul (Alex Karpovsky), and it's a fair point, but then he goes on to talk about how those less fortunate guys have to work really, really hard. For what, exactly? Not for everything. Paul has a good career in advertising and, it seems, a fair bit of money or familial support to fall back on, because the more he talks about how much he's suffered the harder it becomes to believe. What he really seems to mean is that it's difficult for him to attract sexual attention from women, or to avoid messing things up once he's got it. That it might be wise to base his self esteem on something else does not occur; instead we get to spend an hour and a half watching him flounder around uselessly and whine.

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There are guys like Paul, of course, and some of them are unlucky enough to have friends like Jason, the 'folk hero' of the title. Jason doesn't mean any harm - he likes Paul, enough to take him along on tour as supporting act despite the fact that Paul is a hopeless comedian who dies on stage every night. But Jason likes himself. He may do so a little too much to see the world realistically, but he functions better in the world that Paul desperately wants to be part of, enjoying a moderately successful career as a musician. His confidence and easy going nature attract women, including those Paul has set his sights on. Can their friendship survive this?

Jeff Grace's rambling indie road movie follows the mismatched pair on the aforementioned tour, on which they meet and fall out over talented singer Bryn (Meredith Hagner), who is understandably unimpressed by both of them. Hagner's scenes, when she is given enough to do, are weightier and more interesting, but she's sidelined in what is primarily a drama about hipster male angst (no matter how desperately its protagonists might resist that label). The real problem with it is that it doesn't have anything new to say about this. What remains is the music, and some audiences will find it worth watching for this alone. There's also a lot of skill in the way it's shot, with Nancy Schreiber's cinematography adding character to a series of similar interiors, though it sensibly steers away from anything flashy.

The appeal of a film like this depends in large part on how the audience connects with the characters, so it's likely to be a bit hit and miss. It's successful enough in recreating the atmosphere of small town gigs that it's likely to feel very comfortable to people who inhabit that world, but such viewers may not react well to the deliberate discomfort created by Paul's stage performances. Whilst it has something going for it as a study of awkwardness, it never quite takes this far enough to break new ground. Too much and not enough at the same time, it complements its characters well, but is no more watchable.

Reviewed on: 19 Feb 2017
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Folk Hero & Funny Guy packshot
Two artistically inclined childhood friends, a comedian and a folk-rocker, set out on a tour together in hopes of regaining their “mojo” and finding love in the process.
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