Saturday, 5 September 2009
Of Funny People
Funny People, the new film from Judd Apatow. Aptly named Funny People, even if it isn't actually a laugh a minute fun fest, it is about Funny People. Now if you go in expecting a fun fest you will be sorely dissapointed. You need to know that Funny People front and foremost is a drama film with the humour coming more from the stand up comedy sections and the "funny peoples" reactions to real worldly events. As apposed to something larger than life happening and comedy being drawn from that.
So is Funny People actually any good? For about and hour and a half/two hours yes it is. But it's the last act of the movie, or as many people have pointed out "when the second movie starts" it just gets boring and tedious. If a movie can sustain a two and a half hour run time then by all means do it. The Boat That Rocked could but only because of a large ensemble cast and the bittiness of the plot. Sadly Funny People can't, there are only two main actors with the other actors more or less being segregated into either half of the movie with a maybe a few cameos in the other. My main point of contention is that the first half of the film is EASILY a 9/10. It's a superb look inside the lives of comedians with the humour coming from realistic places even in the face of the drama that is occurring in their lives that it's such a shame that the second half quite frankly doesn't work, probably about a 6/10, for reasons I'll move onto later.
The main plot of the film follows George Simmons (Adam Sandler) a famous comedian, who is diagnosed with a life threatening disease. So following his diagnosis begins to try and get back to his roots and why he became a comedian in the first place. This means doing stand-up. It's here he meets Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) and aspiring comedian who eventually get's hired to be Simmons' assistant who is to write all his jokes and help him with the disease. Through this Simmons discovers what he missed in his life, his ex-fiance, Laura (Leslie Mann) who he convinces doesn't love her husband (Eric Bana). However once he recovers he decides to win Laura back...*
The good points include the fact that Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen are both great leads. Both are showing amazing acting talent. Adam Sandler proves once again that he's an amazing dramatic actor as we've seen in films such as 'Punch Drunk Love' and it's a shame to see him still pushing movies like 'Bedtime Stories' rather than making some mature career choices as quite clearly he's capable to make. Seth Rogen continues to prove he isn't just an affable stoner with his performances this year in 'Observe and Report' and 'Funny People' and he proves once more that he is one of the most talented young actors in Hollywood. The supporting cast to is great, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman and Aubrey Plaza are all great as up and coming comedians with the right level of banter between the characters and that trademark of all Apatow films, a deft ability to adlib and come up with funniness that isn't in the script. The most obvious comes from the stand-up which was entirely written by the actors and entirely filmed with only 5 or 10 minutes being in the actual film.
Judd Apatow has a good script and knows how to play to his actors strengths as he's worked with the vast majority before (in particular Seth Rogen who has been in all three of his films as well as both of the shows made before he broke out into film) so that's definitely a big plus. He also proves he can do drama very well, but honestly no one was really disagreeing with him there as anyone who's seen Freaks and Geeks can attest to. He can even write romance as we've seen in 40 Year Old Virgin, it's just such a shame that after an incredible that he doesn't do it in this movie.
So here we go onto the weaker second half. Like Michael Bay, Judd Apatow needs to be hit with the editing stick and taught to make his movies tighter. You don't need to put every single idea into a movie, just enough to not leave the audience begging for it to finish. However luckily Judd Apatow can actually make a cohesive movie around this overabundance of ideas unlike Michael Bay who could film himself taking a shit then throwing a firecracker down the toilet and call it a movie and make a billion dollars (too strong?).
As I've said the drama and comedy that stem from George Simmons disease make for a great movie, but honestly the movie should end either with him being cured and learning a life lesson from THAT or him dying from the disease and Seth Rogen going on to have a massive career afterward based on the wisdom taught to him by his mentor. Not the hour that follows Apatow being at his most self-indulgent.
Self-indulgent? I hear you ask. Yes self-indulgent. He cast his wife and two children in the roles and spends and hour of the film following them around in a far weaker portion part of the movie that seems to spend so long harking on about romance and the strength of marriage that it stands at complete odds with the first half. Yes there are occasional moments of humour but it just feels like the other (far funnier) characters are thrown out to make way for the Appatow movie. There is honestly not much need for ANYTHING following the scenes where is told the disease might be gone. You could leave the cinema then and honestly not have many questions apart from "how will Ira patch up with his friends" and "will George Simmons get his life together". But honestly questions for a good movie are far better than a film you just get bored during and spend half the time starring at your watch.
Overall if you want to see a great drama about legitimately funny people and their lives with great acting and writing then the first half of Funny People is wholeheartedly recommended. But if you get bored during long tedious scenes of nothing really going on, which ends up leading nowhere and ultimately is exceedingly unfulfilling then the second half isn't for (if it's for anyone). If Judd Apatow knew how to be less self indulgent and actually edit his movies down by about 20 minutes (see Superbad) then he'd be left with one of the best movies of the year. Sadly he's left with one that just fell at the last hurdle.
*is it sad that I've left it on a cliffhanger?