Funny People


As its title implies, Judd Apatow‘s third feature is all about comedians or, more precisely, about how the very people who make a living (or try to anyway) making people laugh are often miserable, pathetic human beings. It’s the old “sad clown” cliché, but maybe clichés become clichés because they’re true?

I borrowed that last line from Paul Thomas Anderson, which allows me to segue into how, next to “Punch-Drunk Love”, this is clearly the best movie Adam Sandler‘s been in. He’s as hilarious here as in anything he’s ever done, but “Funny People” also goes to some really dark places, and it’s stunningly well shot for a comedy. I’m talking Oscar-worthy cinematography here and what do you know, it just so happens that the film has been lensed by Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski, i.e. the man responsible for the visionary look of “Le Scaphandre and le papillon” and Spielberg’s go-to guy since “Schindler’s List”!

So going back to the sad clown thing, Sandler’s playing George Simmons, a stand-up comedian who’s found great success by starring in a series of silly high-concept comedies. It’s made him rich all right and he gets to fuck as many chicks as he wants to, but deep inside, he’s very much unhappy. Because of “the one that got away” (irresistible Leslie Mann), and also because he misses the old days when he was just an up-and-comer who spent most of his time shooting the shit with his buddies in a crappy apartment instead of being bored and alone in a huge mansion.

Enter Ira Wright (the endearingly goofy Seth Rogen), who just so happens to be an up-and-comer who spends most of his time shooting the shit with his buddies (scene-stealers Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman). Here’s George’s chance to reconnect with who he used to be, and here’s our chance to laugh a lot while we remember that, here’s another cliché, it’s often the small things in life that matter the most. That’d be a great 90 minute flick right there but, as always, Apatow can’t help stretching things out to almost 2.5 hours and laying the sentimentality a bit thick.

Hence, George is not just unhappy, he’s also dying from a rare blood disease, and on top of hanging out with a struggling comedian, he also ends up trying to win back the only woman he’s ever truly loved, even though she’s now married with children. Now, this isn’t all bad, especially since Mann’s character’s husband is memorably played by Eric Bana in full-on cocky Australian mode.

But to me, “Funny People” would have been even more effective if it was shorter and if it had mostly stuck to the Sandler-Rogen bromance. Nonetheless, this is still Apatow’s funniest, best film so far and, again, the cinematography is really something else!