Friday, July 31, 2009

Comedy Is Dead Review: Funny People

Funny People is, above all things, a movie for comedians and the comedy nerds who love them and are fascinated by them. If you are either of those things, even the film’s 2.5 hour runtime will not phase you. In fact, it might not even feel like enough.

At its core, this film is a deeply personal exploration of the people and personalities that gravitate toward comedy as a career, with Adam Sandler’s character George Simmons (who is clearly designed to be a rough analogue for Sandler himself) as the almost numbingly selfish, self-hating, isolated epicenter of it all. It is often blisteringly hilarious, sometimes very touching, but mostly it’s just real and human and honest.

This film is a “comedy” only in the sense that it is about comedians and comic actors, who are all very funny in their day to day lives (some, naturally, more than others, which the film takes special care to point out), but overwhelmingly this is a very emotional film about a group of people who are, fundamentally, pretty fucked up emotionally, and that’s what drives them to do the very thing they live for. At times it feels like Judd Apatow has ripped his heart out and smeared it all over the screen; there’s that much emotional honesty in this thing.

The performances are all completely fantastic. It’s been mentioned dozens of times before, but this is the Adam Sandler of Punch Drunk Love rather than The Waterboy. He's playing “George Simmons”, the embittered, fabulously wealthy and utterly alone guy who stars in garbage exactly like The Waterboy (encapsulated here by a string of high-grossing, big-budget, totally shitty fake comedies like “Mer-Man” and “Re-Do”, films that do not represent who Simmons really is). Simmons finds out he’s terminally ill and decides to go back to standup comedy, and one night, after bombing horribly with a depressing set fueled by his sudden mortality, he hires Ira (played in three dimensions by a ratcheted-down Seth Rogen), a struggling standup comedian, to help him write material for the stage and be his personal assistant. The journey that follows – both physically and emotionally – is suitably described as “epic”, and not in the annoying internet sense of the word, but in the Laurence of Arabia sense.

All in all, it’s hard to describe Funny People as a ‘comedy’. It is, rather, a very funny drama about comedians. It’s also one of the most incredibly personal and utterly fascinating movies I’ve seen in a long time. For god’s sake, go see it.

Oh, and Maria Bamford and Brian Posehn are listed in the IMDB credits for this film but apparently didn't make the final cut. We hereby demand that Bamford and Posehn's scenes are included on the DVD, no matter how minor.

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