Review by Sean Boelman
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize in the Narrative Feature Competition of this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, Joshua Pikovsky and Jordan Tetewsky’s Hannah Ha Ha supposedly represents the best in truly independent filmmaking. There are a lot of great things going on here, but it’s a bit too simple of a film to have much of a lasting impact.
The movie follows a kind-hearted young woman who spends her days working odd jobs here and there as her older brother moves back, causing her to rethink her perspective on life. Like so many slice-of-life films, this lives or dies based on how invested the viewer gets into the characters, and luckily for Pikovsky and Tetewsky, they’ve been written quite well.
It would be hard not to love the protagonist. The movie introduces her in a way that initially seems like it is going to make her into a standard slacker archetype, but it soon becomes clear that the character is more approachable than that. Although the protagonist might not be the most nuanced, she’s definitely likable.
That said, the emotional core of the film is really the relationships that she has with the other characters. Her synamic with her brother creates a lot of the conflict in the movie, and while it does tend to lean towards the conventional, it’s still compelling and believable. On the other hand, the father-daughter relationship in the film is absolutely adorable and endearing.
Hannah Lee Thompson does a good job in her leading role. She delivers the dialogue in a way that breathes authenticity, and she is able to carry the movie pretty much on her own. Roger Mancusi did a solid job in his supporting role as well, but he doesn’t have any really flashy moments to allow him to shine.
The runtime of the film is only seventy-five minutes long, and so it’s relatively unobtrusive. Even when the movie does feel like it’s meandering, it gets back on track pretty quickly because it has to get where it’s heading pretty quickly. If the film does suffer from one thing, it is a lack of a sense of humor. Although it’s not an overly dark movie, it would have been better off being a bit funnier.
Pikovsky and Tetewsky aren’t quite as skilled as directors as they are as writers. The film is obviously limited by being low-budget and highly independent, but there are some basic mistakes made in the movie like oversaturation. That said, it’s an interestingly idyllic look at small-town life.
Hannah Ha Ha isn’t a spectacular film by any means, but it’s generally pretty resonant. It’s definitely very indie in nature, and while that comes with some limitations, it also allows it to have a feeling of genuineness.
Hannah Ha Ha screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, which ran virtually from January 27-February 6.