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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Funny People, Seriously Funny Movie



Whenever someone hears the name Judd Apatow, they assume something side-splittingly funny is about to happen. And while Apatow's name may have become synonymous with hysterics, that's not always the case. After all, there's an exception to every rule. But what happens when a film created by "America'a Funniest Producer" is neither hysterical nor dead-pan serious? Lines get blurred, critics bicker, and audiences across America feel betrayed. Why, you ask? Beats me.

Those expecting the traditional model of Apatow films found themselves a bit surprised this go-round. Funny People is not a relationship comedy in the way that The 40-Year Old Virign and Knocked Up were. While those two films dealt mostly with men and their relationships with women, Funny People did just the opposite focusing on a man's internal struggle, and coming to grips with one's own mortality.

The film has gotten very mixed reviews, which surprises me. I gather that most people just don't get the movie, or want to seem like they are in the know and hate it cause everybody else did. But for me, this is Apatow's best film so far. Quite frankly each one gets better and better. I fell asleep the first time I saw The 40-Year Old Virgin. I laughed and cried when I saw Knocked Up. And I legitimately thought about my life after Funny People came to a close.



In some metaphorical way, this could very easily be Apatow's last film. I won't be, but it could be. If you think about they way each of his projects work, it kind of makes sense. Virgin was about a man finally becoming a man. Knocked Up took it one step further: a man making a family, finding a purpose. In that regard, Funny People is the perfect bookend film: an old man looking back on his wild life to determine his legacy and realize what's really important when you go. SPOILER: It's not your stuff, it's the memories you make and the people you make them with.


And that's really all there is to say about the film in a general sense. I hate writing about specifics cause then I am implying that each of you that reads this has already seen it. I will say one thing though. For the first time in ages I was actually quite pleased with Jonah Hill's performance. While he is typically just one note for me, his "one note" fits this film so brilliantly it's hard to tell if he's even acting. It was refreshing. Jason Schwartzman echoes the same performance, and for those of you who don't live in Hollywood and chase the entertainment dream, Hill and Schwartzman are the perfect archetypes of guys we hate out here: pretentious douche bags who want nothing more than their own glory. They exist in poignant dichotomy to what the A-plot of the film is. Go figure.

Funny People
is in theaters everywhere. EVERYWHERE!

1 comment:

The Bitter Script Reader said...

While I liked many of the same points you did, I was left more than a little unsatisfied by FUNNY PEOPLE. I think it had the potential to be Apatow's best for the first 90 minutes. The Thanksgiving scene was one moment I particularly enjoyed, and the JS/JH subplot was good too.

And this had to be one of Sandler's better performances too. Usually that would be a backhanded compliment, but I mean it as genuine this time.

For me, the movie ran out of gas once it headed to Northern California. I liked Leslie Mann's role in the first part of the film, but once that subplot took center stage, the movie lost all momentum. I really, really disliked the ending of that plot and even the good final scene with Sandler and Rogan couldn't erase the previous hour of missteps.

I partially blame Judd's casting of his wife for the pacing problems in that portion. I picture him coming home and saying, "Bad news honey, we cut the scene with the dogs and the peanut butter because it went long and didn't add anything." Then Leslie says, "Over my dead body" and their kids make sad faces over their scene being cut and suddenly Judd's running back to his AVID at 1am if he ever hopes to be allowed back into his house again.

But if you enjoyed it, I guess that's all that matters. There's a good movie in there somewhere. Hell, there might be two!