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Best friends as polar opposites are like the brick and mortar of the quirky indie buddy genre, with links to the past binding people together as they overcome the hurdles of life in the now. It’s a well-played theme that has had its own run of ups and downs.
With Folk Hero and Funny Guy the premise is sort of a mix of growing up and road trip with a dash of off beat where truths and understanding combust in the unexpected and unplanned moments. Like anything spontaneous, there are bits that surprise and things that seem familiar, times when it seems to click and times when it doesn’t. It survives on its chemistry and good nature, even as it reroutes itself through some heavy drama.
Paul (Alex Karpovsky) is a struggling comedian, clinging to older material while he deals with the end of a relationship and a crossroads about where he wants to end up. His best and oldest friend is Jason (Wyatt Russell), a popular rock and folk singer who takes a bit of pity on Paul and invites him to go on a solo tour along the east coast. Paul agrees and along the way, the two discover much in small taverns, pubs and hotels, meeting women who in turn help to shape the fate of the trip as the men learn in steps about who they are and where they are going.
Written and directed by Jeff Grace, Folk Hero and Funny Guy is a film of standards, with two characters that are defined by the broadly-drawn lines they remain steadfastly bound by. Jason has long dusty blonde hair and beard and performs barefoot on a throw-rug while Paul is hunched and anxious, best when he riffs on crowd work but is anchored to his little green book of jokes that he carries with him wherever he goes. There’s nothing wrong with clearly coloring in the primary colors of course, and indeed, both Paul and Jason are interesting characters, though the film misses a few chances to go outside the lines per se and allow each to truly have the deeper insightful breakthroughs the story sets up as intended, despite a few more carefully-laid out conflicts that feel more perfuctory than relevant.
That said, Karpavksy and Russell hit some highs, their on-screen friendship both natural and well-written. While it might feel cliché that an attractive girl, another singer on tour named Bryn (Meredith Hagner) comes between them, it also feels true and Hanger is terrific in support. She and others in the peripheral really help, including cameos by the recently very busy Melanie Lynskey as an old flame, Hannah Simone, Michael Ian Black, and a funny turn by David Cross as a radio host.
Folk Hero and Funny Guy is a safe bet, a mostly predictable but effective little gem that is easy to swallow and has the expected feel-good after taste. While it hardly challenges, it makes for an satisfying watch.
Movie description: Folk Hero and Funny Guy is a 2017 comedy about successful folk singer who takes his best friend, a struggling comic on his tour to help bolster his career.
Director(s): Jeff Grace
Actor(s): Alex Karpovsky, Wyatt Russell, Meredith Hagner
Genre: Comedy, Drama