I liked this movie both more and less than I thought I would. Rather than go into a big analysis I’m just going to list stuff I liked and Stuff I didn’t like. What a novel idea!
-Eric Bana. I knew he had a comic background in australia but he absolutely fucking nails the role. It’s a thankless role for one, but he manages to make it both hilarious and realistic. We’ve known plenty of alpha male figures who have good mix of ambition, friendliness, combativeness, and basic stupidity; who can be awfully smart in some ways and completely pathetic in others. He’s just great and goes all out. Good stuff.
-Jonah Hill. Absolutely shines with minimum screen time. Pound for pound funniest. Plus he has a real grounded character to boot.
-“Raaaaaaaaaaaaandy.” Most of this is outside the actual movie but you either get me or look it up. You won’t be disappointed.
-nails the world of stand up (don’t make the mistake of analyzing comedy. That’s why punchline failed. Don’t try to explain the joke).
-nails the world of fame. People love pictures.
-nails the dynamic of joke writing. When you’re pitching jokes people don’t react and laugh really they just can say “that’s good” and use it.
-Seth Rogen plays probably the closest thing to Seth Rogen. Or at least what I imagine him to be like. Which is a super sweet guy. Overtly sensitive. And really funny too.
-Leslie Mann. Very strong in this one. Much less of a performance than her other roles (which she was going for outright comedy or effect, and nailed it). Some people are griping about how judd apatow is in love with is wife and just showing her off or some shit, but that reeks of BS to me. It’s fully functional.
-The two Apatow kids. Is it me or are these kids developing great timing and screen presence?
-Adam Sandler. Some people have an idea that comedians are actually pretty sad, angry, lonely people. Most people don’t. But really that’s how they fuel a lot of comedy. And Sandler is utterly willing to go there and get pretty dark (his insanely dark song on the piano about his hating the audience, all while the audience is laughing, is a particalarly great trick he and apataow play on the other movie audience and a complete encapsulation of the dynamic of both fame/the character). His whole mess is on the table and there isn’t any neat journey or arc to it. He’s a guy dealing with some shit and has many moments of misplaced anger and misplaced benevolence. I also loved sandler’s ability to both make fun of and relish his own movies. He’s fully aware he’s making movies for 12 year olds and likes it. It’s his natural inclination. And yes he has that other side too, but for him, that’s for real life and standup. It was a nice meta-self-exam. And I liked it a great deal.
-The relationship between rogen and sandler. Just a great balancing act that defines the blurred lines of being paid to essentially be someone’s friend. Theire relationship is totally the backbone of the film and makes it all work. (There’s some speculation that this is really about Apatow’s relationship with Garry Shandling. Which might be very well accurate).
-The insane amount of funny cameos. And they were all (pretty much) functional.
-It’s not really a movie. I mean there’s no real plot or anything.Which isn’t that big a deal, really. Cause films can be fully functional as a multi-character piece. And this one is functional; every character is distinct and interesting and, yes, funny. But it’s not really a character piece either. I don’t know. There needs to be something more… focused for that. I don’t know. It’s big and it rambles and while it all is fine, it’s just noticably lacking the solidarity that something like Knocked Up even had. And that’s maybe the biggest problem… Knocked Up was inescapably better. So in taking many steps forward in terms of going towards something more dark and human, he takes a step back in the sense that it just isn’t as good a movie.
-Why is this so relevant? Because of the James L. Brooks corallary.
Apatow admits himself, the goal of any real comedian is to make a James L. Brooks movie. Why? Because they’re real and sad and hilarious and perfect. They’re the funniest movies about insanely upsetting things. And he knows the perfect amount of sweetness to use without making people barf.
And what Funny People means is that Apatow took his step into the James L. Brooks direction and it really wasn’t even close to the same thing. It was something else entirely, something good even, but it wasn’t Brooksesque. And that was the great hope for Apatow. After Freaks and Geeks (which IS brooksesque) that’s what people wanted from him. But I didn’t much of that here and I really am beginning to think that Freaks and Geeks just might have been more Paul Feig (who SERIOUSLY needs to kick start some real directing/writing gigs) and less Apatow (whose style comes across more clearly in Undeclared?).
Anycrap it’s minutae and more about my hopes for the man rather than actual quality, but still I feel it’s a valid reaction.
The only thing I’m on the fence about is where to go from here? Should he try to make the tight James L. Brooks movie the world so desperately needs? Or should he just go off and try to do his own messy but infectious thing with more courage? Either way he’ll probably build on Funny People.
Which is a very funny movie.