Directed by Alison Bagnall
November 13-19 at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP
A tale of arrested development in a twilit suburb, Funny Bunny follows a trio of broken souls as they mope around—until they chance upon each other, at least, and then before they know it they’re not really moping around anymore. This uneven independent movie, funded partially via Kickstarter, is perhaps most remarkable for its exceedingly delicate tone, a sort of downbeat, slightly warped twee-ness: At one point, a character cuts the crusts off a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and then feeds the triangle halves to a pig. The film gets underway as Gene (mumblecore utilityman Kentucker Audley) tries to drum up support in fighting the “childhood-obesity epidemic,” struggling to reel off the relevant talking points as he goes door to door, clutching on to his clipboard for dear life. Gene, it turns out, is also in the process of separating from his wife, and soon he finds himself crashing in a mansion with one of his signatories, the spritely “Titty” (Olly Alexander), a child of privilege who was nonetheless not privileged enough to have earned his parents’ affection.
Unfortunately, not all of the human behavior on display here feels organic, even by the film’s own determinedly peculiar standards. Gene, otherwise more or less a voice of reason, convinces Titty that it would be a good idea to confess his love to webcam girl Ginger (Joslyn Jensen), telling him to show up unannounced on her doorstep. The canvasser also asks a bike-shop employee (filmmaker Josephine Decker) to expose her breasts to the naïf Titty as a kind of public service. (She does it without hesitation.) Meanwhile, Ginger reveals a pet cause of her own, dragging Gene and Titty along to the comically hotheaded meetings of an animal-rights group that spreads its message via YouTube.
This film, directed by Alison Bagnall (who co-wrote Buffalo ’66 with Vincent Gallo), shows that digital-age disconnection can just as well be a hyperlocal thing, and that activist action can help to combat loneliness in addition to increasing others’ awareness. But Funny Bunny is more about individuals than about what, exactly, brings them together. The three principals all share co-writing credits with Bagnall, and each creates a distinctively eccentric presence: Audley (who also co-edited) speaks tremulously, occasionally lapsing into a fast-and-loose babble that ever so slightly resembles baby talk; Jensen’s flinching at every touch betrays her character’s deep-seated family trauma; and Alexander, who also played a magical waif in Bagnall’s middling previous film, The Dish and the Spoon (2011), embodies the introvert Titty as a wide-eyed bobblehead. The actors each do credible work, but for all its tonal balance on tiptoe, the film nonetheless feels a little contrived. Sure, they have nothing better to do than be bummed out together, but would these childlike adults, each from a different universe entirely, really display such preternatural patience with one another?