Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Funny People **1/2

Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann
Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill, Aubrey Plaza, Eric Bana

"Comedy usually is for funny people" says George Simmons (Sandler) and the usually in that quote is the keyword to best describe the mood of this film.
Judd Apatow's third film as a director takes an inside look at Hollywood, filtered through a comedian's eyes.
Simmons is a comedy superstar, in the vein of Sandler, who made a name for himself starring in raunchy adolescent oriented comedies and crass stand up routines.
He's a millionaire but lives a pretty lonely life. Things change for him when he learns he has a terminal disease and he tries to make things right.
Not in a Frank Capra way, but right by his own standards; therefore he hires a down on his luck comedian named Ira (Rogen) to be his assistant and also tries to rekindle his love with old flame Laura (Mann) who has a husband (Bana) and children.
Sandler, who rarely gets enough credit as an actor (because of his career choices mostly) makes George someone we have a hard time liking.
He's the kind of conceited superstar who thinks the world asks too much of him-he even sings it-and only reaches down from his Olympus when he needs something.
But Sandler also gives him a soul. He doesn't turn him into a fable character ready for a big change; even when the screenplay tries to make us see him with both pity and disdain, the actor makes George someone who won't give a damn about how we perceive him, until he needs an audience to turn his next movie into a blockbuster.
It's a brave performance because he's never afraid of showing his ugly side, which is most of it.
Apatow as usual gives the supporting cast great moments and Mann once again shines as the complicated Laura. Her kind of down to earth sexiness is incredibly appealing and this time around she plays someone we'd have no trouble believing existed.
Some of her choices are ridiculous, but Mann plays them out like a grown up (perhaps the only real adult in the movie). Rogen once again plays the sweet, slightly awkward sidekick and he's good at it, while Hill bores with his umpteenth take on the potty mouthed nerd.
Bana was a real surprise, he plays an Australian and when the movie wants us to hate him (he's the only character who isn't in show business and has a corporate job) we simply can't, because the actor makes us realize that even something a Hollywood star can find boring, can be dignified.
His comedic timing is ace and the dislikeability factor the screenplay attributes him comes only looking as a manifestation of how he represents people like Simmon's worst nightmares, both in and outside the movie.
He's very handsome, while the other guys often make jokes about their average looks, he's successful and he gets the girl they wanted.
And as an actor Bana is proving that you don't have to say "fart" and "cock" to make people laugh; his sarcasm might just steal more laughs than Sandler's funny voice shticks.
With him the movie reveals its weakest link because Apatow never stops to ask what it means to be funny, he has forgotten that comedy isn't a universal language.
He takes for granted that by thinking of funny we must be the kind of people who laugh at his' and Sandler's jokes.
With this unintentionally arrogant move he assumes that he is a fine comedian.
And he can be; but his kind of comedy has only gained importance during this decade and "Funny People" is an egocentric-slightly self critical- ode to himself and his newly founded reign.


Luke said...

I found it rather strange that Funny People was definitely the least funny Apatow-related comedy of the past few years. It is interesting to think about the villain label applied to Bana in this when Sandler's character is so hard to like that his believability as the hero is really suspect. I think the marketing crew for this flick was definitely to blame - it was so heavily advertised as a laugh-riot when it was anything but. You're definitely right on about Mann, though. And is it so wrong of me that I also LOVE her in George of the Jungle?? Yeah, I definitely lost my credibility. :)

Jose said...

Completely. I get that he wanted to make a drama, but it doesn't really pay off. He's brilliant with comedy, but he rushes into drama and makes it all sloppy (just see the latter half of the movie).
I love Leslie in "George" too! Hahaha, I saw that movie a million times growing up, still steals a laugh from me every now and then.

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