‘Funny Bunny’: AFI Fest Review

Courtesy of AFI Fest 2015
Three’s a crowd when everyone’s a chronic introvert.

Alison Bagnall’s third feature tracks two lonely men in search of an enigmatic young woman.

Three damaged young souls find a measure of solace in one another’s company as they attempt to reconcile their complicated personal histories in Alison Bagnall’s gently comedic drama. Proven film festival appeal could translate to modest theatrical response in limited release when Funny Bunny opens at IFP Screen Forward on November 13.

Bagnall wastes no time unpacking abundant emotional baggage to apportion among her three lead characters. Pushing 30, Gene (Kentucker Audley) refuses to move out of the home now occupied by his ex-wife, until her new boyfriend literally drags him out kicking and screaming. Gene moves into the mansion owned by his new acquaintance Titty (Olly Alexander), a naive younger man who’s acquired the property and a sizable fortune after suing his father to recover his inheritance. With too much time on his hands, Titty is pursuing an online relationship by video-chatting with Ginger (Joslyn Jensen), a reclusive, enigmatic young woman with a pet rabbit that needs some pricey veterinary care, which Titty is happy to subsidize.

Gene notices that Titty is totally smitten with Ginger and offers to drive him to meet her, but she reacts hostilely to their unannounced visit. Pitching a tent and camping out in a public park nearby Ginger’s place, the two men manage to win a bit of grudging respect, leading her to offer them a place to crash on her living room floor. Ginger introduces Gene and Titty to her circle of animal-rights activist friends and it’s not long before Titty’s suggestion of a bold protest action sets in motion a chain of events that could yield the catharsis that all three of them collectively appear to crave.

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The whimsically humorous script relies primarily on playing up the individual idiosyncrasies of the characters rather than full-on comedic situations, although the overall approach remains grounded in reality, rather than taking to Wes Anderson-style flights of fancy. An attempt to establish an offbeat love triangle between Titty, Ginger and Gene feels more contrived, however, never quite solidifying into a reliable source of conflict.

All three actors contributed to the screenplay along with Bagnall, indicating the level of collaboration involved in the production. Audley has the most substantive role, although handling Gene’s part with additional conviction would have provided a more cohesive basis for catalyzing Titty and Ginger’s relationship. Alexander gradually positions Titty to significantly alter the direction of the plot, but initially his character comes off as ineffectually tentative. At first withdrawn and then increasingly mercurial, Ginger appears to conceal some hidden trauma that Jensen partially reveals toward the end of the film, although too belatedly to gather much sympathy.

Bagnall’s production style intentionally and often rewardingly sticks to the basics, employing primarily hand-held camerawork to keep the focus on the characters. An extended and often underlit night-time sequence suffers somewhat from reliance on this type of technique, which otherwise nicely replicates a somewhat uneasy naturalism.

Production companies: Magic Owl, Cervidae Films, Hot Metal Films

Cast: Kentucker Audley, Joslyn Jensen, Olly Alexander, Louis Cancelmi, Josephine Decker, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Nicholas Webber

Director: Alison Bagnall

Screenwriters: Alison Bagnall, Kentucker Audley, Joslyn Jensen, Olly Alexander

Producers: Ted Speaker, Laura Heberton, Vinay Singh, Tara Ann Culp

Executive producer: Mark Shlomchik

Director of photography: Ashley Connor

Production designer: Penka Slavova

Costume designer: Karen Shaffran

Editors: Kentucker Audley, David Barker, Caleb Johnson

Music: Melanie Hsu

Casting: Tara Ann Culp

No rating, 86 minutes