Friday, August 7, 2009

A Movie Review: Funny People (2009)

Funny People (2009)
Director - Judd Apatow
Release - 31 July 2009 (USA)
Runtime - 146 min; R

George Simmons - Adam Sandler
Ira Wright - Seth Rogen
Laura - Leslie Mann
Clarke - Eric Bana
Leo - Jonah Hill
Mark - Jason Schwartzman

As the title implies, Funny People is a movie that follows the lives of some funny people. They’re funny, all right, but they are also real people struggling with real life issues, and in a dramatic turn it is the humor of the movie that takes a back seat to more pressing concerns.

Director Judd Apatow (Knocked Up (2007); The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)) does not give us the same type of laugh out loud antics of his previous films, but, like each of those films, the comedy of the actors and the way they choose to present it is the true driving force. Adam Sandler is reminiscent of a favorite role of mine as the main character in Punch-Drunk Love (2002), his first true attempt at a darker version of a human being. With his portrayal of superstar actor and comedian George Simmons Sandler has achieved something very special.

In just a few short days of release I have heard many people say they were somewhat disappointed that this film was not a more typical Sandler farce, which they couldn’t believe it was almost two and a half hours and had such a serious tone. I can’t really speak to those people because I don’t understand them; I honestly don’t understand that mind-set.

This film is wonderful. The first half is heartfelt and funny, and the second half, though not as strong as the first, brings home a lot of nuances in characters that leave you really thinking about people in general, their motives, and the ways in which they go about projecting themselves on others. This is a film about how people can deceive themselves, but with a message of potential redemption.

Seth Rogen doesn’t steal the movie from Sandler, but that is because he doesn’t have to – they are both excellent in their roles, and, in my opinion, both deserving of awards. As upstart and struggling comedian Ira Wright, a chance encounter with legend Simmons, fresh off the news that he may be terminally ill, leads to a working friendship that changes both of their lives. They form a loosely based team while Simmons works through his demons and struggles to come to terms with what his life has become, and what he has left behind.

This movie did not need to be so long, but it also didn’t need to cut anything out, if you follow. If only the second half of the film had not become a bit too fabricated for my tastes it would have been perfect. As it is, this film made me feel real emotion for these people, and I cared about what happened to them. No one here is perfect – all very far from it, but they each seem to understand that, and it works for them. Life is very unpredictable and like the characters in this film, it is filled with funny moments and very sad moments. How we work through those moments with the people around us is what this film ultimately becomes.

**** ½ out of 5

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