Monday, August 3, 2009

Review - Funny People

A dramedy that follows George Simmons, a veteran actor/comedian, who learns he has a rare terminal blood disorder. When George sees Ira Wright, a young comedian struggling to find his niche, at a local comedy club the veteran comedian hires him as his new assitant. The two develop a rare friendship as George struggles to deal with his untimely illness and reach out to the one that got away before he dies.

Judd Apatow's "Funny People" is easily his best and most natural directorial effort to date. It is a completely moving story which steps behind the limelight actors and celebrities face and delivers a ton of both heart and hilarity. Apatow films are synonymous with uproarious comedy, but here the director takes a step back from his typical comedy and the result is exceptional. The film does have some long transistions resulting in a few pacing problems, however I found the length of the 146 minute film to be a vital aspect in presenting the full story Apatow wanted to tell.

The entire cast delivers inviting and memorable performances, but Adam Sandler shines giving his strongest performance since Punch Drunk Love. His character, George Simmons is an utter prick, but Sandler's charm wears right through the rough and crude exterior and left me engrossed in his plight. Seeing Sandler finally return to a real performance was also a nice change of pace. I have grown very tired of his usual sophmoric schtick, longing for him to do something that his abilities would flourish in and "Funny People" is definitely that film.

Seth Rogen has finally made a movie where he doesn't becoming grating halfway through the film. Don't get me wrong. I like him and think he is generally funny, but every film Rogen has starred in, something always tends to annoy the hell out of me. Whether it his irratating chuckle that seems to repeat every five seconds or his overbearing breathing that gives James Gandolfini a run for his money, Rogen has always lost me in his roles. Here in "Funny People" however, Rogen is a gem. Some of my accalades for Rogen's performance can be tied to Apatow's writing. He created a rich character for Rogen, one that makes him approachable and is also a emotional contrast to the characters Rogen has previous played. Sure Rogen does once again portray a lovable loser type, but his dialogue and persona in "Funny People" is dramatically apart from what you have seen him do before.

Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler together make the emotionally rich tale from Apatow extremely funny. The two comedians on-screen chemistry goes unmarred throughout and they both provide the paricular tenacity required to deliver Apatow's at times offensive dialogue. Although we have seen this before from Rogen, he and Sandler bounce the dialogue off eachother so precisely and with such dry wit, it truely makes both the serious and humorus scenes a delight to watch.

Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman are absolutely hysterical as Ira Wright's (Rogen) roommates. Both characters are total prudes and I loved how straight up both Hill and Schwartzman played them. Whether it was Mark Taylor Jackson's (Schwartzman) endless gloating about Yo Teach or Leo Koenig (Hill) professing how un-funny Ira was, it came across without a hitch. We have seen the roommate angle work well for Apatow previously in Knocked Up, but here in "Funny People" he has penned his best stuff.

I know some have their reservations about Judd Apatow consistently casting his wife, Leslie Mann and their children in his movies, but for me they only help to provide a very natural touch to his films. Mann's performance in "Funny People" is no where near as funny as in Knocked Up, nor is it suppose to be. She plays Gene Simmons (Sandler) lost love Laura and her scenes shared with Sandler are touching. Mann displays a capable ability to handle the character's depth bringing both sympathy and heart to the role. Sure someone else could have played the role, but it is a nice thought to know a director and family man like Apatow, can cast his family in a film and have them on set and nearby. Lastly, I really couldn't picture anyone else doing that terrible Aussie accent and making it equally as funny like Mann.

"Funny People" is my favorite directorial effort from Apatow thus far. It is moving, hysterical and his most effective film. The story is exceptionally layered telling both a touching retrospect and a hysterical blossoming friendship. Adam Sandler breaks his typical generic performances in a role that is closely alinged with his own personal career and the result is unerring. On a side note, I loved all of the back work they did on cheesy movies Simmons had done throughout his career. "When's Re-do 2 coming out George?" Classic stuff. Furthermore, Leo's You Tube video with cats had me in stitches.

Finally "Funny People" like other Apatow films is crude, has enough dick and balls jokes to last you the rest of the year, but where it is different is the effect it leaves on you. The film not only makes you laugh, it makes you think about your own choices in life. It is thoughtful and beyond that a film that I will enjoy for a long time.