July 31, 2009
Review - " Funny People " - (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
"Funny People" is not simply about George Simmons' struggle with mortality. It sees that struggle within the hermetically
sealed world of the stand-up comic, a secret society that has merciless rules, one of which is that even sincerity is a joke.
"No - seriously!"
Here is a man without confidantes. When you depend on your agent for emotional support, you're probably only getting 10
percent as much as you need. On the circuit, he meets a hungry, ambitious kid named Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), who has
written some good material. George hires him to write for him, and then gives him a chance to open for him, and then finds
himself pouring out his worries to him. George and Ira become friends but when Ira has the audacity to say something
George doesn't like he's slapped down and basically told to mind his own business cuz he's just an employee. Later George
confronts Ira and tells him "If you were really my friend you wouldn't go behind my back. You'd have come to me and say
'Hey, you're making a mistake' ". The irony is that Ira did exactly that and was told to shut up and fetch me a Diet Coke (I
wonder how much the CocaCola company paid for that endorcement?)
There was a girl once in George's past named Laura (Leslie Mann). She was the one who got away. He encounters her
again, married to an obnoxious macho Aussie named Clarke (Eric Bana). George apparently was once able to sort of confide
in Laura, until success shut him down, and now that he's dying, he finds he still sort of can.
The thing about "Funny People" is that it's a real movie. That means carefully written dialogue and carefully placed
supporting performances - and it's ABOUT something. It could have easily been a formula film, and the trailer shamelessly
tries to misrepresent it as one, but George Simmons learns and changes during his ordeal, and we empathize.
This is a new Seth Rogen on the screen. Much thinner, dialed down, with more dimensions. Rogen was showing signs of
forever playing the same buddy movie co-star, but here we find that he, too, has another actor inside. So does Jason
Schwartzman, who often plays vulnerable but here presents his character as the kind of successful rival you love to hate.
Rogen and Leslie Mann find the right notes as
George's impromptu support group. The plot doesn't
blindly insist that George and Laura must find love, it
simply suggests they could do better in their lives. Eric
Bana makes a satisfactory comic villain, there is a
rolling-around-on-the-lawn fight scene that's
convincingly clumsy, and Mann mocks him with a
spot-on Aussie accent (not the standard pleasant one,
more of a bray).
Apatow understands that every supporting actor has
to pull his weight. The casting director who found him
Torsten Voges to play George's doctor earned a day's
pay. Voges is in some eerie, bizarre way convincing
as a cheerful realist bringing terrible news: miles better
than your stereotyped grim movie surgeon.
It’s a great role for Sandler. He is George. Literally, in
the beginning, they take real footage from Sandler’s past and give it to the character George. It must be odd to play a version
of yourself, with fake films like Merman that seem talor made for something Sandler actually would do. Sandler shines, and it
really seems he was born to play George, or George was written because Sandler exists. This film helps to forget how
painfully bad Sandler can be in other money-making roles. But this film also proves Sandler has great self-awareness of
those films and lets us laugh with him, at him and on occasion feel for a rich, spoiled superstar. I love the dynamics of working
jokes with Rogen, though I eventually get a little annoyed with Sandler’s lack of growth. George doesn't evolve as much as it
seems he should.
Seth Rogen is addictive. I constantly want to go on movie journeys with him. Ira is goofy, and has an unbelievable wide-eyed
grin when George takes him under his wing. Wouldn’t you? Working in a deli doesn’t compare to flying on a private jet and
hanging out with James Taylor. Ira is a solid human being, who makes missteps but actually feels guilt. It’s not everyday that
happens with a leading man. And job well done on squeezing in a “Mr. Belvedere” joke.
It’s good to see Eric Bana doing comedy, unfortunately he’s saddled a little bit with being the prick husband. He’s finally
using his real accent and when he’s talking over excited about Aussie-football it’s painfully real. But it’s also the type of
scene that makes you roll your eyes as that type of person instead of laugh out loud. And Clarke could just crush George in
a fight, no matter what life lessons he’ll later learn.
Leslie Mann plays Laura with great vulnerability, the love of George's life, left behind years ago when he cheated on her. She
has since married the Australian version of George, Clarke (a hilarious if underused Eric Bana). They have a big house and
two beautiful and funny daughters played by Apatow's and Mann's real-life daughters Maude and Iris, who also played
Mann's and Paul Rudd's daughters in "Knocked Up."
Look for cameos by many of todays top comedic actors such as (and I know I will forget some) Andy Dick, Dave Attell, Norm
MacDonald, Ray Romano, George Wallace and Sarah Silverman . There’s two that really stand out. First, Paul Reiser is
surrounded by tons of old-school comedians at a lunch with George. And of all the people, I wouldn't have guessed Eminem
could get the most laughs. He calls out Romano and tells George the best thing for him would be death. It’s gold. An there's a
great gag when Rogan tells Romano "I thought everybody loved you."
After an enormously successful career as a producer, this is Apatow's third film as a director, after "The 40-Year-Old Virgin"
and "Knocked Up." Of him it can be said: He is a real director. He's still only 41. "Funny People" is not a film that fits nicely
into a particular genre. It doesn't really feel much like an Apatow film (he of Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin). And it's far
better than the recent throwaway Sandler comedies (Click, You Don't Mess with the Zohan). If anything it comes off as the
best snippets of past work from both guys. But it does all work. "Funny People" is funny, moving, dramatic, and alternately
hilarious. It's a bit like a stand-up dramedy.
Get ready for it, this is going to shock you … Funny People … yeah, it’s funny. In fact, it’s not too far off from Apatow’s
other films. There’s still plenty of crash jokes and guys hanging out. The film takes a pretty big shift from being from
focusing on George, his disease, and his new partner in crime Ira. Leslie Mann (Apatow's real life wife) get's equal billing
but there is no question this one is Sandler & Rogan's all the way. They play off each other superbly. Riffing comedt bits
seemingly without effort. They manage to convey the couples rather complex relationship and the strange bond that the
older, successful comedian forges with the young up-and-comer is awkward, funny and touching.
In the end it's a film worth buying a ticket to. I've often thought Sandler was underrated on the "serious thespian" front and
Funny People gives him a chance to play a character with some real depth. Rogen and the gang are impressive too, and
there really isn't a weak link to the film in terms of acting. This film will make you laugh, make you think, heck it might even
make you cry. It's hard to ask for more than that for a few hours time and eight to ten bucks. Enjoy this one when you get a
chance, if only to make sure we get to see more out of this Apatow fella. Every scene where they examine jokes, do stand-up,
or talk about dicks work really well. With Apatow comes a lot of swearing, and the focus here seems to be on the penis. It
really works, because that’s exactly what I would assume Sandler would joke about. I laughed throughout.
For comments or to submit a movie review for possible inclusion on Delta Films site
please send an email to Critics@deltafilms.net
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Cast: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill,
Leslie Mann, Eric Bana
Judd Apatow was writing material for comics when he was a teenager,
and his insights into the stand-up world form "Funny People," his new
film that has a lot of humor and gnashing. It's centered on Adam
Sandler's best performance, playing George Simmons, a superstar
comic who learns he has a very short time to live.
He is without the resources to handle this news. He doesn't have the
"support group" they say you need when you get sick. He's made a
dozen hit movies and lives in opulence in a house overlooking Los
Angeles, in short George Simmons is your basic self-absorbed
Hollytwood asshole. He has no friends, has alienated his family, &
completed fucked it up with the only woman he has ever loved. He is
so isolated he doesn't even seem to have any vices for company.
Sandler modulates George's desperation in a perceptive, sympathetic
"Funny People" shows us another side of Adam Sandler. His fans are
perfectly happy with Sandler's usual persona, the passive-aggressive
semi-simpleton. This other Sandler plays above and below that guy,
and more deeply. This film aptly demonstrates that Sandler can play
both funny and serious roles , and in the same movie! (I was one of
the few people on the planet who actually liked "Spanglish" which
shows Sandler in one of his serious roles.)
Jonah Hill has become one of my favorite comics, and as
George points out, Leo is the fat look-alike to Ira. Ira and Leo
fightlike brothers and eventually actually have something to
fight about with Ira trying to hog George’s attention. Leo also
hassome quality stand-up jokes involving the penis, which
seems to be a theme throughout.
Jason Schwartzman plays Mark, the most successful of the
three roommates. Mark has the lead role in the 'Saved By the
Bell'sitcom clone “Yo Teach…!” Fame has turned Mark into
an elitist jerk and Schwartzman plays it to a T. Less is more,
and hemakes the most of his screen time. It would have been
nice to see a glimpse of what he was like before his “fame.”
We’ll justhave to believe it more like when he opens up about
his grandfather’s death.