“Funny People” strives for more than cheap laughs

0 Submitted by on Thu, 30 July 2009, 22:13

funny_people_01By Sandra Kraisirideja
Adam Sandler gives one of the richest performances of his career in the new drama, “Funny People.”

Written and directed by Judd Apatow, “Funny People” is filled with humorous dialogue and plenty of comedic moments from Sandler’s co-stars Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman.

Apatow wrote the script based on his experiences early in his career as a stand-up comedian. It comes across as a very personal film, mainly due to Sandler’s performance. He shows a deeper range of emotions here than in the past although his attempts in movies like “Punch Drunk Love” and “Click” demonstrated that he was interested in tapping his more dramatic side before.

Sandler plays successful comedian-turned-movie-star George Simmons who lives in a beautiful beachfront home, but he has no meaningful relationships and spends much of his time alone. The people he does interact with either work for him or are celebrities just like him and he confesses that those people are not really his friends.

When Simmons learns that he has a rare blood disease and will die soon he attempts to make a real connection with the world by doing stand-up comedy. Sandler fans will probably be disappointed that his character is not as goofy or ridiculous as his earlier personas.

Unfortunately, audiences will have certain expectations for the movie given its comedic pedigree and a marketing campaign that focuses on connecting “Funny People” with Apatow’s other comedies. Plus Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill are more known for their absurd comedy roles than dramatic ones.

funny_people_02Audiences will fault the movie for its length. At 146 minutes “Funny People” is much longer than a standard comedy. For example, “The Hangover” clocks in at 100 minutes. The time stretch is nothing new to Apatow, who has steadily been increasing the length of his comedies starting with “The 40-Yeard Old Virgin” (116 minutes) and continuing with “Knocked Up.” (133 minutes).

Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann, is the weakest part of the movie, but her performance isn’t too blame so much as the lack of character development for her part. Eric Bana plays Mann’s husband and while it’s nice to see him in a less serious role he is miscast.

Filmmaking is about taking risks to tell a story and Apatow certainly succeeds in portraying the isolation and loneliness that comes with celebrity and fame. Sandler’s character is incredibly wealthy and can sleep with a different woman every night yet it’s clear his life lacks meaning and purpose.

The film’s message is that it’s necessary to have personal connections with people that are based on mutual respect and genuine affection. Usually the main character reinvents himself after falling in love, but in “Funny People” the main character is saved by a friendship rather than a romantic relationship, which is a nice change.

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