Type to search

Funny Pages Is a Raw and Emotional Coming-of-Age Story

Arts & Culture Featured Film Reviews

Funny Pages Is a Raw and Emotional Coming-of-Age Story

Avatar photo

James Jay Edwards reviews Funny Pages, a coming-of-age film written and directed by Owen Kline, and starring Daniel Zolghadri and Matthew Maher. (A24 Films

One of the most exciting aspects of independent cinema is that you never know what you’re going to get. Some indies are just as slick and savvy as anything put out by the major studios. And others are simple, raw, and emotional movies. Funny Pages is one of those simple, raw, and emotional ones.

(Funny Pages, theatrical release poster, courtesy of A24 Films)

Funny Pages is about an aspiring teenage comic artist named Robert (Daniel Zolghadri from Eighth Grade) whose senior year crisis of identity is accelerated by the sudden loss of his art teacher/mentor. Robert decides to drop out of school and leave the comforts of his parents’ suburban home to move into a hole of a basement apartment in a bad part of town. He gets a job working as a typist for a public defender, and it’s there that he meets a possible new mentor – a defendant named Wallace (Our Flag Means Death’s Matthew Maher) who once worked for a big-name comic book publisher.

Writer-director Owen Kline always wanted to be a cartoonist while growing up (and before he discovered the world of filmmaking), so it’s clear to see that Funny Pages, his debut feature, is a very personal project. And as such, the viewer can feel a lot of Kline in his main character of Robert. The movie is ultimately a coming-of-age story, with all of the poor decisions and lack of foresight that goes along with it. And these poor decisions and that lack of foresight lead Robert to some very dark places.

(Funny Pages, courtesy of A24 Films)

Wallace himself is a mentally unstable fellow, and while the crime that brought him to need the public defender for whom Robert works is never fully explained, enough is revealed to show that he is trouble, despite the upside that Robert sees in his character. Robert’s “landlord” (in quotes because what he rents is hardly habitable) is a creep, and his “roommate” (in quotes for similar reasons as “landlord”) is not much better. It’s all a bit much for a kid who just dropped out of high school to have to handle on his own.

In Robert’s mind, the suburban oasis that he left behind is worse. His parents (played by Orange is the New Black’s Maria Dizzia and Joker’s Josh Pais) seem to want what’s best for him, but at the cost of helicoptering him (at least in his eyes). His only true ally is his best friend Miles (Miles Emanuel from Caladris), upon whom he kind of takes out his frustrations by good-naturedly bullying … not enough for Miles to not want to hang out with him, but enough for the viewer to feel a bit sad about it. Robert’s oppression isn’t very oppressive after all. He just doesn’t see it.

Also on The Big Smoke

What is instantly striking about Funny Pages is its independent spirit. It’s shot in a lo-fi way on Super 16 film with natural-looking cast members and minimalistic lighting, giving the movie a very real and raw feel not unlike that of an 80s shot-on-video production. It’s clearly a scripted narrative, but there’s something about it that feels improvised or off-the-cuff, almost as if Kline gave his actors free rein to riff around the outline of the script. Everything is structured yet loose, fake yet genuine. There hasn’t been a movie this relaxedly tight since Clerks.

(Funny Pages, courtesy of A24 Films)

Funny Pages combines subtle comedy with raw emotion and wraps it all up in a story that is both inspiring and disturbing. It’s a story about a kid who’s escaping something that doesn’t need escaping, yet he’s too young to realize it because he’s at the age where he knows it all. I guess this is growing up.

Funny Pages is now playing in select theaters and on VOD.


Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.


Avatar photo
James Jay Edwards

James Jay Edwards is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and is the current President of the San Diego Film Critics Society. He sees dead people, can handle the truth, and knows that Han shot first.