In the running for the LOCO Discovery feature film award, Chubby Funny tells the story of an aspiring middle class creative named Oscar. After moving to London with his friend and fellow actor Charlie, Oscar finds the year he gave himself to ‘make it’ to be at first exciting, but increasingly hard to find the funny side of. Writer-director Harry Michell was inspired to get to work on Chubby Funny after going through his favourite director’s first films, with Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket being a prime example of how certain directors come out of the gates running. I’m thrilled, then, to announce that Michell has similarly come out of the gate at a blistering pace.
This is a passion project that shows all the signs of a genuinely mature feature, with sensitive and reflective direction, it is already being labelled a spiritual successor to Withnail and I. The increasingly fragmented and absurdly competitive job market has inspired a slew of recession-core dramedy’s, such as Frances Ha and Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, which Michell is clearly channelling here. I would go so far as to say Michell does for millennials in London what Noah Baumbach did for millennials in Manhattan. And while these comparisons do speak some truth, and are not a bad thing in and of themselves, they belie the fact that Michell has crafted a sophisticated and reflective feature that can, and should, stand on its own merits. Higher-end camera equipment and the use of classical music gives the film a richer feel than may be expected. This latter aspect was a move that could have invited accusation of pretension, but instead works wonderfully. At the risk of once again inducing grandiose allusions, Michell’s use of Schubert to create pathos and yuks in equal measure, reminded me of Woody Allen’s channelling Gershwin in Manhattan.
The most consistent laughs come from Oscar’s interactions with his local corner shop owner (the brilliant Asim Chaudhry). And while their cringey communication breakdowns are funny, the relationship felt under developed and Chaudhry’s charter a bit tokenistic (even more frustrating as later in the film Oscar and Charlie listen to an Asian actor lament over his being repeatedly typecast as a ‘terrorist’).
At this point I feel the need for some full disclosure: I’m a red-haired, London-dwelling creative who works as a charity fundraiser (an eerie tick list that applies to the film protagonist). As the film progressed I began to sink further into my seat, in a state of acute empathetic revulsion that was at times hard to bear. Thankfully, the lean narrative and evolving relationships can be enjoyed by any one with even a passing experience of having squandered opportunities through inaction or narrow-mindedness. One watches Oscar struggle to juggle all of his commitments and passions, and in increasingly self-destructive moves become enraged with his ‘failures’. The film begins with Oscar listening to his agent (played by a scene-stealing Alice Lowe) describe him as being chubby funny, witty and bubbly. This is initially reflected in his happy-go-lucky attitude, specifically in his relationship with his flatmate, which is admirably cute. Soon though, his difficulty in handling setbacks and rejections send him into a depression, in which being ‘funny’ seems increasingly useless. True to life, the film does not end with a miraculous turn around, but instead shows glimmering signs of Oscar’s progression.
A film about graduates that will touch both students and long-time alums, this is a film about cutting off the excess weight of expectations, delusions and bad habits. Don’t let the title fool you, Chubby Funny is an incredibly lean and nourishing cinema experience. It’s easily one of the comedies of the year.
Dir: Harry Michell
Scr: Harry Michell
Featuring: Harry Michell, Augustus Prew, Isabella Laughland
Prd: Helen Simmons
DOP: Craig Dean Devine
Music: Tom Osborn
Run time: 89 mins
Chubby Funny premieres at the LOCO Comedy Film Festival on the 6th of May.