No Laughing Matter: Funny Face (2021) - Reviewed

Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Saul is a loser, Brooklynite obsessed with James Dean and the New York Knicks. Zama is an emotionally distraught, young Muslim woman who runs away from home. The two meet in a chance encounter at a convenience store. Saul and Zama set out in a stolen car seeking revenge on big money business moguls that forced Saul (and his grandparents) out of their home. Does any of this matter? When I reached the conclusion of Funny Face (directed and written by Tim Sutton), I wasn’t even sure if those involved in the production of the film know. 

Funny Face never truly figures out what sort of film it wants to be. It toys with portraying Saul as a Joker-esque vigilante, an ordinary man ready to bring down the corporate hierarchy that is causing despair throughout New York. But it never fully commits. Saul always coming across one reason or another to follow through with his plan. While building up to a climax that never comes it tries to build a relationship between Saul and Zama, two outcasts with nowhere to turn to but each other, and while the performances from Cosmo Jarvis and Dela Mekienyar are enjoyable enough, we never really feel the growth of their relationship. This jumping from narrative point to narrative point plagues the entire film, as we are not shown how or why things happen, simply that they do. This makes it hard to buy into any of the events that occur.

Despite this, Funny Face moves along at a slow and creeping pace. This is mostly bearable, as a unique array of shot selection, camera movements, and colors keep the film interesting, at least visually. The problem is this drawn out build-up never actually comes to a head. By the film’s end I hardly cared about what had happened to our characters, and the film leaves little to no inclination about what could possibly happen next to them. Motives are not earned, and therefore they don’t feel realistic. Clearly, Saul is a very angry young man (as evidenced in a monologue boiling with rage about the state of the New York Knicks basketball franchise, a highlight of the film), but is it reasonable to assume he’d be able to track down information on New York real estate executives and make threats on their life without facing any repercussions?


Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures


Speaking of these executives, they are the epitome of a “suit” antagonist. They eat at fancy restaurants, wear nice clothes, and indulge in beautiful women, but at the end of the day all they care about is money, and they don’t care who they harm on their way to obtaining it. These characters are so bland however, that they are not even given names. One scene featuring one of the suits is so gratuitous that it practically pushes the film into soft-core pornography territory. 

Funny Face is a film that is bound to find it’s audience, maybe people from Brooklyn will relate to it more, maybe people with a grudge against the suits of the world, or people who believe in unlikely love will connect to the characters. But there just isn’t enough narrative substance to carry the plot, despite some interesting camerawork. 


- Neil Hazel