Funny People Review: Judd Apatow’s Most Refined Film Balancing Comedy and Sentimentality

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Judd Apatow is truly a unique figure for cinematic comedy that is unprecedented in our day in age. While most comedic directors go for shock value or pure vulgarity, Apatow seems to have an undercurrent of emotion running through all of his films. Take his previous directing works, such as 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, and one would notice that the characters in each of his films are extremely well defined and bring a relatable sentimentality to the atmosphere of his movies. Funny People, Apatow’s newest piece to his directing repertoire, continues the trend and is by far his best work emotionally as well as being his most refined in his comedic delivery. Setting his film in the world of stand up comedy and using a cast that is as eclectic as they are entertaining, Apatow pulls together an extremely riveting reflection piece on some very difficult subjects such as fame, death, loneliness, and friendship allowing these incredibly deep elements to engage the audience to follow these multi-faceted characters on the screen. Rarely do comedies transcend their average genre descriptions, but Funny People is not only a great comedy it’s also a great film, which is evident in its presentation, writing, and acting.

Stand up comedy is incredibly hard to capture in its environment and there hasn’t been many successful attempts at presenting this lifestyle in a film, except for Bob Fosse’s Lenny, which is a bit too dramatic and is more biographical to a particular comedian rather than the lifestyle itself. Funny People sets off to introduce you to the life and times of a comedian at various points in careers, ranging from a millionaire doing cheaply written kids films to a struggling comedian doing free shows at the Improv just to do what he loves. Our main protagonist is George Simmons, Adam Sandler’s most refined and emotionally genuine performance since Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love (PTA coincidentally was an editing advisor on the film), who is a famous and beloved comedian who has just been informed he has a serious blood disease similar to Leukemia. George is practically alone, having lost the love of his life due to frivolous cheating adolescent antics and never really connected with anyone else on a personal level and left it professional. After he meets Ira, Seth Rogen in his best acting performance, George hires him to write jokes for his stand up since George has returned to his roots on the stage having nowhere else to turn now that he is dying. From there it is a tale of friendship, connection, and ultimately growing up that encompasses the perception and relationships in George’s life.

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Apatow this time around has truly made his film look great and it mostly could be owed to the Academy Award winning cinematography techniques from Janusz Kaminski. Whether the scene calls for subjective perception, either George finding out he has a deadly disease or a montage of mood driven select shots, or even the intimate lighting settings of a comedy club, the film lets Kaminksi embrace his photography strengths and creates some great looking segments that aid to the tone and flow of the film. Speaking of flow, the film does clock in at a good 2 hours and 20 minutes, making the film a long trek but the great balance of drama and comedy that Apatow’s script contains is successfully brought to life on the screen making it a worthwhile experience that hardly ever felt stretched. Without the strength of a great script the film wouldn’t have been as interesting or as deep as it turned out to be and the thematic elements, such as the crashing to depression with George or the awkwardness of talking with a girl you like with Ira, are truly relatable and have quite the intense realism that even some dramas don’t execute effectively.

The diverse and talented cast of Funny People makes this the memorable film it turns out to be. Adam Sandler should have begun a career with more dramatic delivery ever since the successful display of emotion he had in Punch Drunk Love. In Sandler’s eyes there can be seen a vast range of emotions, including anger, loneliness, and sadness, all of which create a truly multi-dimensional character on the screen. To portray sickness in its essence, where it comes off realistically, is incredibly difficult but Sandler proves he can approach delicate and refined acting opportunities with confidence and success through his presentation of George Simmons. Seth Rogen as the innocent and determined Ira shows that he can go beyond the pot-smoking lazy no nothing that he has played at various times in Pineapple Express or Knocked Up and returns to our original perceptions of him as an actor from his times on Apatow’s frequent writing and directing television show Freaks and Geeks. There are also many memorable performances from Jonah Hill, this time a more mature version of his previous works, and Jason Schwartzman as a self-involved sitcom star. But the surprise performance is from Eric Bana as the Australian sports loving mandarin speaking husband of Laura, the love of George’s life, who seems quite in his own when speaking in his authentic Australian accent and gives quite a comedic performance. Without this motley crew of individuals, that stems further from these select mentions and includes many cameo segments, which feature Ray Romano, Paul Reiser, Norm McDonald, Eminem, and Sarah Silverman, Funny People might not have successfully pulled off the sentimentality that is required for an Apatow directed feature.

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This incredibly personal project, something that can be felt from the opening sequence including home videos from Apatow’s personal files, allows the emotional and relatable qualities of the film to be felt in all of the interesting and well developed characters that are exceptionally portrayed by a great cast. Apatow dictates his film with a witty and emotional script that is definitely funny but also doesn’t negate on the dramatic elements that bring the audience deeper into the experience. Funny People combines all of Apatow’s strengths, aided with a great cast and cinematographer, making it his best work, probably due to its personal nature to the director himself. Don’t expect another Hangover out of Funny People because it is on a different plane of comedy, one that transcends the basic fundamentals of the genre and adds a successful layer of emotion that makes Funny People not only a great comedy but also a great film.

Grade: B+

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Comments
One Response to “Funny People Review: Judd Apatow’s Most Refined Film Balancing Comedy and Sentimentality”
  1. Kayla laws says:

    how’d you see it so early?

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