Fun (1994): Rafal Zielinski’s Tale of Crime, Anomie and Boredom, Starring Alicia Witt

As produced and directed by the indie filmmaker Rafal Zielinski, Fun is an interesting but flawed chronicle of crime and anomie among contemporary teenagers.

The subject matter, if not the actual treatment, is significant and the film benefits from two strong lead performances.

“Fun” world-premiered at the 1994 Sundance Film Fest (in the Dramatic Competition series) and was released over a year later, in September 1995, by the indie distributor Greycat Films.

The tale is incoherent and sharply uneven, especially in approach and visual style, showing that the director aims at both being serious and entertaining.

Some scenes are done in a realistic mode, but others look as if contained in low-budget exploitation movies. At times, Zielinksi gives the impression that he would do anything to encourage voyeurism from the viewers.

The story centers on two teenage girls, who commit senseless murder out of boredom. James Bosley’s screenplay, which is based on his play, depicts the brief criminal careers of Bonnie and Hillary, two girls who meet by chance on a California roadside.

Both outsiders, the girls immediately bond, sharing intimate stories (most of which are lies) before they decided almost on a whim to kill an innocent old woman.

A good portion of the film is set within confined space, a juvenile detention center where the girls are being held and interrogated. Shockingly, we realize that the girls are alienated from their families—and from themselves, embracing frivolous, both immoral and amoral values, manifest in their motto that “Fun is No. 1.” As expected, the girls express no remorse for their crime.

The filmmakers try to build suspense by keeping the motive for the girls’ secluded existence as a mystery, which is then unveiled in the second half of the picture.

The performances by Alicia Witt and Humphrey give the rather shallow film a shot of energy and vitality, which certainly helps. Secondary characters include a counselor (Leslie Hope) and a writer (William R. Moses), who shows interest in the girls’ stories for his own purposes.

Cinematographer Jens Sturup employs two different styles, vibrant color for the narrative and black-and white, hand-held, docu-style for the interrogation.