Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Movieness, Part 2

Yeah, so I didn't want to make that last post any longer, so I'll do Funny People here.

Funny People

Funny People

This movie should have been 100 minutes of hilarity. Instead it was 146 minutes of drama, social awkwardness, wry observations, and a fair bit of humour. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Judd Apatow's previous efforts as this was a very different direction for him.

Again, the trailer essentially tells the story - George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is an aging comedian diagnosed with a terminal disease. He spots aspiring comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) at a comedy show and hires him to write jokes for him.1 Wright, labouring at a deli2 and living on his borderline successful buddy Mark's (Jason Schwartzman) couch, grew up watching Simmons and jumps at the opportunity to bask in his reflected glow. The trailer also shows the majority of the funny parts of the movie.

Simmons uses Ira mostly to fetch him coffee and warm up the audience for him. Eventually we learn that Simmons secretly pines for his ex-fiancee Laura (Leslie Mann), who is now married to Clarke (Eric Bana), who is often away on "business". Nevertheless, he slowly works his way back into her life, eventually coming between the couple before Laura comes to her senses and realizes that her family comes first.

Wright, throughout all of this, plays second fiddle. His stories - such as his feud with Leo over writing, with Mark over sleeping with a girl he's interested in (Aubrey Plaza), and his emerging comedy career - mostly seem to be used when there is no logical reason to insert Simmons into the scene. It's an interesting attempt to tell two stories that have a common bond, but it doesn't seem to quite work out as well as planned.

Still though, everyone in the movie is excellent. Sandler gives a performance that makes you forget who you're watching, Rogen plays the awkward sidekick quite well, Hill and Schwartzman are interesting in their roles of moderately famous superstars in their own minds, and Bana plays the womanizing, rugby-playing, Aussie man-boy to a T.

There are a lot of heartfelt parts to the movie, and it's impressive to see Simmons go through varying stages of grief and personal redemption as the movie progresses. Funny People as a title, though, seems to have been used ironically. Many, many of the jokes are dick and fart jokes, and many more are awkwardly unfunny. This is a large part of the movie, really, but even when it's planned, watching someone tell jokes that don't get laughs is very uncomfortable.

So, between this and Away We Go, two movies that seem like they're going to be very different than they are that still manage to work out in the end.

1 - He actually asks that both Wright and Leo Koenig (Jonah Hill) do the writing, but Wright never passes that part of the message along.
2 - Which actually provides a chance to comment on the economy. Wright complains how terrible it is to work at the deli, and his co-worker Chuck (RZA) explains that Ira shouldn't consider himself above working there as he (Chuck) is an ex-con unable to find work anywhere else, so as far as he's concerned, it's a great place to work.

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