DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Funny People

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Funny People

Funny People (2009) dir, Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogan, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman


By Alan Bacchus

It’s a shame there was no one around to put the brakes on Mr. Apatow, because there’s a great picture in ‘Funny People’, a really great picture which unfortunately gets squandered by its excessive running time which goes 30mins past its stop sign.

It’s the third film as director for Apatow after two critical and box office hits. So it’s no surprise really that this effort would be stray from the fluffy male-centric situation comedies, into something more serious and more sophisticated. As such “Funny People” feels like his “Magnolia” – a film which, come hell or high water, would appear on the screen in the form imagined in his mind.

Adam Sandler plays a version of himself, a successful actor/comedian George Simmons, who has become a superstar celeb via a series of money grabbing kiddie comedies. While selling his soul he’s replaced his once loving relationship with his wife with a depressingly huge mansion, a series of emotionally detached sexual affairs and a general air of sullen self-loathing. When he learns he’s come down with a life threatened blood disease he decides to cleanse his career with a stand up comedy tour.

Enter Ira Wright (Seth Rogan) a budding comedian sleeping on his buddy’s couch, trying to make it big in Hollywood along with a million other like-minded performers. Ira happens to be at the right place at the right time when he does a short stand up gig after a surprise visit to the club from Simmons. Impressed by his writing he employs Ira as his assistant and joke writer. With Ira under his wing Simmons goes through the process of medication for his affliction and his soul, a relationship which grows slowly and reluctantly into the type of genuine male romance which Apatow is so skilled at creating.

For and hour and forty-five minutes Apatow crafts a touching but not sappy relationship drama between two interesting characters. Sandler’s portrayal as Simmons wrings true as the decadent celeb with buckets of money, but nothing to spend it on. Sandler plays Simmons with little sympathy for much of his relationship with Ira, showing him tough love as a mentor and Seth Rogen brings across genuine optimism, warmth and sincerity in his portrayal of Ira.

Between Rogen and Sandler Apatow opens up with humour, grace and truth the constantly conflicting life of celebrities and specifically comedians. Bipolarism and other such psychological disorders seem to strike at comedians more often than other entertainers, which is why many of them turn to drugs to feed a pain which jokes can’t mask. Apatow keeps drugs out of this picture, but reveals these self-hatred and lonely afflictions with poignancy.

Apatow deftly manages tones of melancholy and gut busting raunchy dick-joke humour. The milieu of the LA stand up circuit is rich with authenticity and of course teaming with enough gags to satisfy the comedic quotient of any of his other films.

And then there's the third act... The film wraps itself up in character and plot satisfyingly at the one hour forty-five minute mark, leaving the audience at a place of reflection and revelation for both Ira and George. But Apatow keeps the film going and going, introducing Eric Bana as the husband and father to George’s pined-after ex-wife (Leslie Mann). This third act, essentially reboots the film and its characters without the focus and inspiration of the previous two. The film meanders on as a domestic drama toward a sloppy slapstick conclusion which leaves all the characters in the same place as at the end of the second act.

A shame. I can only discount this ill-conceived detour to a point. But its excessively length is just too much to ignore, thus reducing a potentially four-star film into a mere three-star.

‘Funny People’ is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment


Full Movie said...

I haven't seen this film yet but I can't wait to actually watch it. The trailer does give away a lot of the film i guess, but I hope that there are still some twist, turns and gags missing.



Full Movie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T.J. Hawke said...

I'm with you Alan. This film had a lot of potential but the sudden narrative change 2/3's into it really set the film back.

I also think the trailer failed this film; from the trailer you would have thought that the third act was the whole plot of the movie.

However, the first two thirds of the movie provides a really interesting story about a souled-out comedien and an aspiring one.

One last note: I was really impressed with Seth Rogen in this movie. After Pineapple Express, I started to find him somewhat grating (the first scene in that film where we see him yell at a call-in radio station was especially grating). But I thought he was the MVP of Funny People and really held the film together, even during the misguided third act.

Overall, this was a solid film but it could have been a great film

Anonymous said...

I love standup and I loved this film. It soothed and stimulated in equal measures and despite its inappropriate length I'm going to watch it again right now. True, it is a mis-shapen thing that's been over worked and awkwardly structured. But then so is life. And Funny People actually feels like life - random, surprising, inspirational, occasionally confusing and incoherent, but always somehow moving forward. Mr Apatow has greatness in him both as a storyteller, a director and a chronicler of our culture. Beautiful movie.