The film is about a struggling stand up comedian Ira (Seth Rogen) who works at a deli to support him and lives with two friends. One is Leo (Jonah Hill), a more successful stand up comedian than Ira and Mark (Jason Schwartzman) an actor whose starring role on a terrible sitcom on NBC named “Yo Teach!” makes him think he is better than others. Mark represents the absurdity of ego in the film and TV industry and how little exposure one needs to develop a superiority complex in the business. In the meantime, George Simmons a former stand up comedian and A list actor with a lot of terrible movies under his belt, finds out that he has a form of leukemia and that his chances for survival are very slim. One thing leads to another and George is hiring Ira to write jokes for him.
The film then develops the extreme love-hate relationship George has with Ira, treating him well one second and like shit the next. It is not long before you get the feeling that Ira is really there so that George is not lonely and so he can also have someone to kick around to make himself feel better in his final days. George introduces Ira to the world of fame and it both appeals and repels Ira. Ira sticks around through all of George’s behavior towards him because he does care very much for him. In the meantime we learn about the girl who got away; Laura played by Leslie Mann. They were engages to be married when George cheated on her. She is now married to Clarke (Eric Bana) and has two kids. George becomes a part of her life again when she thinks that he is dying.
That is all I will say about the actual plot of the movie. George Simmons is easily the most developed character that Apatow has ever written as well as being the most impressive. I cannot quite shake the character as of yet. He is still with me which is probably not for the best. You don’t want this character stuck with you. At least I don’t. He is miserable. Not all the time. He is not one dimensional like that. Many others probably won’t feel this strongly about George. He is not a bad person. He is simply flawed. He is just full of self hatred whether it be on the surface or underneath at any given moment. There is a great loneliness always with him even when surrounded by people. The way that the film depicted the Hollywood lifestyle disturbed me with its realism. The way it can take someone like George Simmons and his inherent problems and loneliness and just leave a bigger hole; except this time around you can have anything or anyone you want and everyone loves you. Adam Sandler is remarkable here. It is not the kind of showy performance I expected as in something like “Reign Over Me”. He is not afraid to let the character be. I never felt like I was watching a performance. I feel like I was watching George Simmons. This freaked me out a bit. George is a sympathetic character nut is also someone who you probably would not want to spend much time with.
Seth Rogen’s Ira on the other hand is basically as likeable as it gets. There is not an unlikable bone in this character’s body. Yet he is still nicely individualized. He balances George and Rogen gives a more restrained and thoughtful performance here and shows a maturity in his acting capabilities. Everyone is excellent in the film and everyone fills their roles well, especially Eric Bana as Laura’s husband Clarke.
The film’s main flaw is that it is overlong. I was never bored but I did feel the film drag in several spots. This movie does not need to be two and a half hours. It by no means ruined the movie for me but it is a significant problem. It is as if Apatow thought that the option of deleted scenes on a DVD did not exist. It was either that the scene went in the film or it would never be seen by anyone. It takes nearly an entire movie length itself for the Leslie Mann character to be fully integrated into the story. That is an issue. There was too much of a focus on lending to the realism in the movie with star cameos. It did its job well but scenes featuring Andy Dick and Eminem did not feel worth the realism in comparison to the length it added. There was also too much with Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman. While I love them both dearly and both were great, their screen time should have been cut by at least 10 minutes. With little trimmings here and there I do believe that film could have been comfortable and had the same impact at 2 hours.
That is really the only outright complaint I have. I felt that Daisy, the love interest for Ira was nice but at the same time she is just not a very engaging character. Daisy is also a stand up comedian who for whatever reason has no sense of humor in real life seemingly because she is a woman and she barely has a personality to boot. Yet I liked her because I felt there was potential for an interesting character. There were also times when I felt that it was a little confusing about who knows about George’s condition and how up to date people are on where he is at.
I have mentioned about how impressed I was about the realism that Apatow puts into the film.. I felt every moment with George knowing about his impending death. How one deals with information like that has been handled on assumedly lesser works such as The Bucket List and Last Holiday. Here it felt all too real, to the point where it forces us or at least it did me, to be terrified if ever I have to deal with information of that weight. As I said before the way Hollywood fame, wealth and life is depicted is all too real. The way women are seen in that world was very realistic and also sad. The women who just want to sleep with celebrities are everywhere and they are in this film and you see how being surrounded by that all of the time would impact the way someone sees women which is extremely saddening and disturbing. The way the film addresses commitment and an inability to change ones circumstances at a certain point or at least the potential consequences of a life change can have is quite depressing. Finally the idea that two people can be meant for each other and at the same time not meant for each other is something heavily explored by the end of the film which I commend it for.
While “Funny People” is flawed due to the unnecessary scenes leading to over length, the film is the most accomplished of Apatow’s works. Overall it is very much worth seeing because of its refreshing complexity in its handling of the story itself. All of the performances but especially Adam Sandler’s truly layered work as George Simmons acts as a strong reason to go see this. While “Funny People” may be funny, I did not leave that theater laughing. In its last scene it has a sort of conventional ending but in other ways it isn’t. Nevertheless though, I still left the theater not knowing what to do with my life. Granted I am more affected by films than most others but that does not mean that this film was all laughs. That also does not mean that the film is not worth seeing. It is.