An angry young girl runs away, leaving behind an affluent but troubled home life to throw in her lot with unsupervised older teenagers and low-level drug dealers. Her former caregiver, straightjacketed by PTSD, must shake off her mental cloud and track the girl down, venturing into the criminal underworld to bring her home so she can be cared for by her family. In that particular framing, Ally Pankiw’s I Used to Be Funny perhaps sounds like a Schrader-esque, quasi-reactionary, deep dive into moral decay. Of course, that’s not really what the film’s about, but it’s easier to talk about it in those terms than what the film’s actually attempting to do. That’s because I Used to Be Funny is about very, very slowly revealing that trauma at the center of its main characters’ shared pasts — an event that inextricably altered the course of both of their lives, the full nature of which isn’t revealed until nearly an hour into the film. It would be unfair to the film, premiering this week as part of SXSW, to give away what that trauma is, but that speaks to the fundamental problem with it: there really isn’t much to chew on here other than navigating the obfuscation. One must wait a small eternity for I Used to Be Funny to finally come out and simply acknowledge the thing we’ve been watching its characters endlessly talk past.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 11.