Funny People (2009)
May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Written and Directed by Judd Apatow
Starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen
Funny People is a complicated and ambitious film that is more of a success than most people will admit to. This film explores an alternate reality to Judd Apatow and Adam Sandler’s lives. As they described it during their press circuit, the film is the alternate reality they believe would have come to fruition had they had all their success but hadn’t found love and didn’t have families.
In some ways this film is for all the comedians and seemingly happy Hollywood stars who eventually have a True Hollywood Story or a Behind the Music dedicated to unearthing all the depressing aspects of their seemingly charmed lives of wealth, girls and fame. Adam Sandler gives his career best performance. He’s still funny, but there’s a darkness to him and a meanness to his character we’ve never seen before. His character George Simmons is a guy with a massive mansion, a large staff of care takers at his beck and whim and can get laid whenever he feels like it, but is a miserable curmudgeon. He becomes progressively pricklier after he’s told he a rare blood cancer with minimal treatment options. Sandler becomes a massive prick, but must still be relatable and sympathetic as a sick person. It’s a tricky performance to pull off, but I think Sandler does alright. He’s believably Scrooge-like in his efforts to push people away and his inability to be properly appreciative of the people around him in his time of need.
Rogen plays a variation on his regular character we expect from him. He’s sweet and goofy and Jewish and somewhat desperate with the ladies as a struggling stand up comedian who Sandler takes under his embittered but wealthy and powerful wings. What I like about the film is that each character is fleshed out, fully formed- their own person. Jason Schwartzman is great as Rogen’s room mate, an arrogant comedian who has his own television show and is making some money and has developed a complex towards his far less successful roommates, including Jonah Hill as a mean and arrogant but unsuccessful comedian.
The film’s biggest issue that it’s really two movies. One with Rogen and Sandler for about an hour and half about stand up comedians and illness and then one with Sandler and Leslie Mann and Eric Bana for an hour about a depressing romantic triangle from Sandler’s past. The second half loses steam and is awkward, not quite making much sense on any level, with a very strange, open-ended finale that doesn’t work well either, in which every character’s worst traits are emphasized with no closure or character development. So basically you’ve got one great 90 minute dramedy about depressed comedians and then an hour long second film about past relationships that is very awkward and doesn’t work.
It’s an ambitious film for Apatow and is mostly successful. Don’t go in expecting Knocked Up or The 40 Year Old Virgin. This is Judd Apatow’s The King of Comedy or Lenny.