Folk Hero & Funny Guy
dir-scr Jeff Grace
prd Ryland Aldrich
with Alex Karpovsky, Wyatt Russell, Meredith Hagner, Melanie Lynskey, David Cross, Michael Ian Black, Heather Morris, Hannah Simone, Cameran Surles, Sarah Arnold, Blaise Miller, Todd Berger
release US 12.May.17
16/US 1h31
Folk Hero & Funny Guy
Hit the road: Russell, Hagner and Karpovsky

lynskey cross morris
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Folk Hero & Funny Guy Bright and easy, this comedy has the tone of a sitcom pilot, tracing the experiences of two artists working on their personal and professional lives. Writer-director Jeff Grace astutely depicts the sillier aspects of being on the road, and much of the movie feels earthy and amusing. But there's very little edge, emotions are a bit thin and the attitude toward sex is juvenile.

After breaking up with his fiancee (Simone), struggling Boston stand-up comic Paul (Karpovsky) realises that he needs to recharge his material. So he decides to go on tour, opening for his childhood pal, musician Jason (Russell). Hitting the road in Jason's vintage Volvo, they head to a series of small gigs starting in New Jersey, where they meet singer Bryn (Hagner) at an open-mic night. She travels down the coast with them, performing in bars and small theatres on the way to Charleston, where Jason's lifelong crush Becky (Lynskey) lives.

The witty dialog is packed with gags that are perhaps a bit sharper than the way people actually talk. But the actors are loose and engaging enough to get away with it. And some nice character details put both of these guys at a crossroads. Karpovsky and Russell give an improvisational feel to their ongoing banter, discussing a range of topics and indulging in running gags that have the echo of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's Trip series. With quite a bit more angst.

Karpovsky brings his usual awkward charm as a guy who never quite committed to comedy, working in advertising as a safety net, which of course informs his uneven stand-up sets. Russell's Jason is much cooler, of course, relaxed about the scruffier aspects of the tour, more confident in his music and about life in general. They make a terrific couple, believable as childhood friends who still hang out even though they grew up to be very different people. And it's entertaining to watch them have an impact on each other.

Between them, Hagner is a fresh breath of energy, nicely underplaying the free-spirited Bryn, although the writing and directing only lets her spark half-hearted rivalry and tepid romance. But observations are knowing, and the meandering pace cleverly obscures deeper issues under the surface. This includes a nice sense of the hunger artists need to drive themselves, and how joy and pain combine to make relationships stronger. These themes are laid on a bit thickly, but they leave us with the warm smile of recognition.

cert 15 themes, language 8.May.17

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