Scattershot Thoughts on Funny People
Some thoughts (in no particular order) on the third Judd Apatow-directed feature, Funny People. There are spoilers, so caveat emptor.
Overall, despite it being rambling and overlong (though that's nothing new with an Apatow movie), I liked this one about 20 times more than Knocked Up (I know I'm in the minority on this one; I'm not the biggest fan of his sophomore effort). It's clearly an intensely personal film, and an insightful and accurate portrait of isolation stemming from massive fame and fortune.
It's no small feat to make a movie about how much being a rich and famous movie star sucks ("Oh, boo fucking hoo, you're expcting me to sympathize with you moping in your stretch limo?"), but Apatow & Co. pull it off, mainly because he clearly knows what he's talking about. There's a particularly poignant scene where Sandler's character, who's been diagnosed with a cancer-like illness, finds he is free and clear, and has only his maid to deliver the great news to. She didn't even know he was sick. So she musters a mildly puzzled and ineffectual, "Congratulations," followed by a piece of banal news that digs the metaphorical knife a little bit deeper.
Adam Sandler is excellent in this, his best performance since Punch Drunk Love. He's clearly playing a surrogate of himself (although damn, I hope he's not this depressed in real life for his sake), with posters of stupid Sandler-style movies all around his Xanadu-like mansion (one of them is a buddy movie with Owen Wilson called My Best Friend is a Robot). He doesn't shy away from being a pretty unlikable and abrasive character.
It's interesting to see all the old footage of Sanlder as a young standup. In fact, the movie gets a little meta. There's no breaking of the fourth wall or anything, but there's a lot of footage of Sandler before he was famous that's clearly real, and I assume that the old acting reel they watch for Leslie Mann's character is indeed Mann's original reel.
It's funnier than I expected. Although it is dark and sad, it's still very, very funny. It made me laugh more than Knocked Up. Then again, Knocked Up didn't make me laugh out loud nearly as much as I had expected.
The scene with Eminem and Ray Romano may damn well be worth the price of admission alone.
I'd be very curious to see a shrewdly cut 90-minute version of the film (although that'll never happen; the DVD will no doubt be 20 minutes longer than the already 140-minute theatrical cut).
Despite a brief scene in the beginning, Leslie Mann doesn't really show up until over an hour into the movie. And Eric Bana (who's featured prominently in the trailers) doesn't show up until, like, 90 minutes in.
Speaking of which, this may be the first time I didn't want to punch Eric Bana in the crotch. Odd.
At the end of the day, it's kind of brilliant.
Wanting all Sandler's stuff,
James "Hanger-On" Comtois