2
Aug
2009
Review: Funny People
Funny People
Jordan
There is little doubt that Judd Apatow is a very funny man. What people seem to forget, however, is that he very adeptly gets at the real human emotion beneath the punch lines and quips his characters trade. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is hilarious on its face, but beneath the humor is a story about a lonely man yearning to find something to give his life meaning. Knocked Up is a story about two people struggling to fall in love, or determine whether that's even a possibility, in the face of an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. So it should come as no surprise that Apatow's newest film, Funny People,is not all about the laughs.

The movie opens with George Simmons (Adam Sandler) wandering through a life of vast riches made off of wildly successful and horribly unfunny movies, looking back at his stand-up roots and wondering where it all went wrong. His introspection is fueled by the discovery that he has a rare form of leukemia and is likely about to die. This leads him to try to break back into stand-up and to try and reconnect with Laura (Leslie Mann), "the one who got away." After bombing a set at the Improv, Simmons meets Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) a struggling comedian looking for a break. Simmons hires Ira to write some jokes for him, and eventually to be his assistant. Ira and George are perfect foils"”Ira is young, optimistic, and unabashedly enthused about the opportunity to open for Simmons, while George is aging, cynical, and unable to find joy except in ripping down others.

Ira lives with other young comedians, Leo (Jonah Hill) who is just finding his way on the stand-up circuit, and Mark (Jason Schwartzman) who can't help but rub his newfound success on a less than stellar sitcom in his roommates face. Ira also pursues an abortive romance with the adorably acerbic Daisy (Aubrey Plaza), but his time is increasingly absorbed by George who realizes he is profoundly alone in his sickness.

Adam Sandler plays Simmons with subtlety and sadness"”he knows he has made mistakes and squandered his life, and worries he may not have time to solve his problems. So he tries to make nice with his family, spend time with his "friends" (including cameos by Andy Dick, Paul Reiser, George Wallace, Norm Macdonald and Eminem) and win back his lost love, who is now married to Australian Clarke (Eric Bana) and has two delightful children (the increasingly impressive Apatow children).

Funny People examines the issues that plague comedians"”the insecurities, the cynicism, the dark outlooks, and it isn't always pleasant to watch. George Simmons is a profoundly unhappy man and uses his humor as a defense mechanism, cutting down others before they have a chance to see his flaws. Real, affecting, and at times ferociously funny, the movie never goes for the cheap laughs. It often allows us to feel the tensions of a comedian whose set is failing, and it never lets us forget what it is that makes funny people funny. If the movie has one flaw, it is that the movie has too many characters, and so often seems to be ignoring people we want to spend more time with. Plaza has created a hilarious and fascinating romantic interest, Schwartzman is perfectly arrogant in his moderate success, and Hill is flat out hilarious, yet each is often forgotten throughout the movies sprawling run time. The focus is on Simmons, but I can't help but wish the movie had let us linger over the fantastic supporting cast for a bit longer. In the end, however, Apatow has made another very funny film, and one that allows us to question the roots of comedy, and the path we all take to find our own happiness.

Grade: A-
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