Funny (real) People
Funny People is not exactly a comedy. It’s not really a drama or romance either. It’s a little combination of all those things and that’s what makes it feel so real. In a far more true-to-life plot than anything the writers of Entourage could ever dream of, Seth Rogen plays Ira Wright, a struggling comedian living in L.A. who befriends comedy superstar George Simmons, played by actual comedy superstar Adam Sandler. George is a self-centered celeb who has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness and begins to reevaluate his life as the thought of death starts to sink in. If you thought this was going to be some kind of sweet story about a narcissistic Scrooge who has a sudden change of heart and reforms, then you’d better stick to Dickens.
Instead, what makes Funny People so refreshing is the way Judd Apatow manages to keep it so real. George is as selfish and spoiled as many top-tier stars are in real life and, though he may experience moments of generosity or friendship, he doesn’t do a complete 180 by the end of the film. Even Rogen’s character Ira, who is a good guy to the core, has moments of competitive sabotage that all participants in the cutthroat entertainment industry must possess. This is evidenced in his relationship with his two roommates, played superbly by Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill.
The film has been getting mixed reviews from critics and audiences and it seems like a flaw in marketing rather than a true reflection of the film. Simply put, when audiences hear that there’s a new Apatow movie starring Rogen and Sandler, they expect nonstop laughs and a lot of dick jokes. While Funny People may contain a fair share of dick jokes, it’s far from hilarious comedy blockbusters like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. But that’s because it’s not supposed to be. This is a story about the people behind those huge comedies and the misconception that they are joking around at all times. In fact, some of the most prolific comedians are people who have experienced darkness and tragedy in their lives. Richard Pryor, who is arguably one of the most legendary comedians in history, had notorious struggles with drugs, marital issues, and a serious illness. The persona that people have on stage is not who they are 24/7. We see that in Funny People through Sandler’s character.
In the same breath, we also witness the “big break” moment that propels new stars into the cultural zeitgeist. Rogen’s Ira is just another dude trying to make it in the business and living with two guys who are far more successful in their attempts. When a big star gives him a chance, he jumps at the opportunity and enjoys tagging along on the ride through the world of stardom. While some might think it’s an unbelievable plot point in some kind of rags-to-riches story, the world of comedy is a small one and this really is how many people got their start.
The only area where naysayers have any leg to stand on is runtime. At 146 minutes, Funny People can feel a bit long. The plot moves along at a decent pace, but there are definitely times when things could speed up a bit. For example, Leslie Mann’s character Laura doesn’t even show up until many points have already been established, though she proves to be an integral part of the story. With the average comedy being around 90 minutes, the longer runtime of this film is proof that it’s not exactly Zoolander.
I would definitely recommend Funny People, despite it’s nearly 2 ½ hour runtime, because the way it treads in between comedy and drama makes it more believable and genuine than many films this year. Don’t be like the two teenagers who sat behind me in the theater and keep asking, “I don’t get it, why is Adam Sandler being so serious in this movie?” Just know going into it that it’s more of a drama with funny moments than the Apatow comedy you might be used to.