- Released Internationally on 31/07/09
- Released in Malta by KRS on 16/09/09
In a nutshell
The man behind nearly all the great ‘bromantic’ comedies of the past four years has written and directed his third film, and this time around it's as much dark drama as raunchy comedy.
The title doesn't necessarily refer to what the protagonists are doing on screen. It refers to the type of people whose lives we are delving into, because this is a poignant and thought-provoking few months behind the scenes in the lives of a few fledgling comedians and one established superstar. It’s written and directed by Judd Apatow, who wrote and directed The 40 year-old Virgin and Knocked Up, as well as producing and/or writing a host of other recent comedies.
Apatow was Adam Sandler's flatmate a while back, a role which included filming Sandler during his frequent prank calling. He wrote the role of comedy megastar George Simmons specifically for Sandler, and he starts off the film with actual footage of their teenage antics. Simmons is an established comedian with a number of blockbusters under his belt, a mansion one is likely to get lost in, and a suitably over-the-top celebrity lifestyle full of autographs, women and money. But a check-up shows some nasty blood counts and within a few minutes of the film starting he learns that he has acute leukaemia, and it doesn't look rosy. He walks out of the clinic stunned, and inevitably starts viewing life differently.
Over on the low-budget side of town, aspiring stand-up comedian Ira (a role written for Seth Rogen - Knocked Up, Pineapple Express) is struggling to make ends meet, and his stage career is cough-starting and spluttering. It doesn't help that his two flatmates and fellow comics Mark (Jason Schwartzman, from Rushmore, in a wonderfully laid-back role) and Leo (Jonah Hill, from Superbad, playing his usual self) are getting more work than he is. But after Simmons shows up at the stand-up club and takes to the stage before him, they meet and exchange compliments, and Simmons ends up giving him a call asking for some writing work and hiring him as his assistant.
As Ira learns about Simmons’ death sentence, he encourages him to reach out to his loved ones, rather than keep the news secret. The problem is, Simmons’ glitzy life has left all his friends and family out in the cold and his life is full of employees, not friends. He takes Ira’s advice though, and reaches for the phone to try and build bridges with the many people he has hurt over the years. This brings new warmth into his life, and everyone around him starts noticing his new improved self.
The one that got away
Top of his ‘to phone’ list is the previous love of his life, Laura (Leslie Mann, from Knocked Up, and Apatow’s wife) who is now married and a mother of two kids after leaving Simmons due to his infidelity. They reunite and realise that there’s still something there, but she is torn between the feelings for him and the normality and stability of life with her kids and husband (Eric Bana, from Munich and Star Trek, in a hilarious and effortless supporting role).
Nothing wrong, nothing usual
It’s hard to pinpoint anything wrong with Funny People. The acting is consistently strong and switches seamlessly from comedy to drama, and the script from Apatow is the best he’s written yet. And despite its excessive length there’s an air of quality and meaning to every scene. But the overall feeling is a very mixed and awkward one, as was possibly intended by Apatow. The film doesn’t fit into any neat category, and one could be forgiven for not knowing whether to literally laugh or cry. Like a Monty Python sketch, the high-points are frequent and throughout, rather than building to any grand finale or punch-line.
In the end
One has to admire Apatow for bringing this script to the screen, because it is a very daring move after the huge success he has enjoyed with his more straightforward comedy. The dark nature of most of this film isn’t comfortable viewing, and the feeling as the end credits roll is ambiguous. A moving portrayal of changing priorities in life, sprinkled with an occasional oasis of crude comic relief.
http://www.apple.com/trailers/universal/funnypeople/ (High-res QuickTime)