Folk Hero & Funny Guy (NR)

Comedy 91 min. May 12, 2017
By Chris Packham
Alex Karpovsky is a gem as Ray on Girls, projecting his anxieties through a deadpan stoicism that makes him a great foil to the other characters. In Folk Hero & Funny Guy, that trait serves him well as depressed dude Paul, a stand-up comic who, despite being smart and talented, is enduring a lengthy onstage bombing spell.

To help Paul rediscover his creative impulse, his childhood best friend, Jason (Wyatt Russell), a fast-rising folk singer, books him as the opening act for an Eastern Seaboard tour — because there's nothing music fans love more than a comedian opener. In addition to being tall, handsome and possessed of lumberjack charisma, Jason also cracks up audiences with his stage patter, outshining Paul. When Paul flirts with women after shows, scruffy Jason inadvertently beard-blocks him; on the road, Paul crushes on singer-songwriter Bryn (Meredith Hagner) but feels inadequately manly in the dazzling glare of his friend's charm.

Paul's stunted creative growth is symbolized by the notebook of aging jokes he clings to, even as its references to MySpace and flat-screen TVs grow fuzzy layers of mold. A couple of times, he actually manages to warm up the crowd with a minute of slightly more personal material, which makes it even more frustrating when he inevitably busts out "What's the deal with these Evites?"

Well-written and inoffensively directed by Jeff Grace, the film suffers from an overall brown color. That's partly attributable to its many scenes in dive bars, but even sunny outdoor shots seem gloomy. Largely a series of conversations between characters, the film is livelier when Jason chases Paul through the woods, shouting rude exclamations to ruin a phone interview for a marketing job, or when the two are pressured into an uncomfortable three-way by a fan with a selfie stick.
Jeff Grace Alex Karpovsky, Wyatt Russell, Meredith Hagner, Michael Ian Black, Hannah Simone, Heather Morris, Melanie Lynskey, David Cross Jeff Grace Gravitas Ventures


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