Funny People

Year: 2009
Studio: Universal
Director: Judd Apatow
Producer: Judd Apatow
Writer: Judd Apatow
Cast: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Eric Bana, RZA

Adam Sandler went 'serious funny' with Click, and now that former flatmate Judd Apatow's cultural cachet over Hollywood comedy has grown to unprecedented proportions, he's gone the same way with his latest effort.

It's less a comedy than a drama with comic trappings as former stand up comic turned movie star George (Sandler playing a barely veiled version of his own life) is told by doctors he has little chance of surviving a blood disease that's shown up.

Faced with his mortality George realises what's most important and how empty his life is in his giant mansion with scripts to read, units to move, occasionally corporate gigs and an unnamed stream of groupies to fuck.

He makes a small, tentative step back towards Laura (Mann), girl he still loves and now knows he was stupid to give up, and also decides to go back to doing some stand up, meeting young up and comer Ira (Rogen). George offers Ira a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for him writing jokes for the act he has a new thirst for, and the two men form a friendship that's obvious to Ira but which George has too much trouble admitting too after living such a self-centred, enclosed life.

Like in all of Apatow's movies there are moments of genuine tenderness between the characters, and in this case – as we spend time with Ira's circle of friends and contemporaries – it's also a great insight into the Hollywood entertainment ecosystem.

There are laughs and reflective moments and Apatow balances them as smartly as always, but there are problems. I didn't have any real trouble with the length like a lot of critics and audiences did, but it felt more like watching a TV series all in one hit, moving from the early development of George and Ira's friendship to the subplot of Laura and her scary Australian husband Clarke (Bana). Not having a traditional structure is a good thing and was no doubt the result of Apatow's clout with the studio, but it felt both a little too free-wheeling and like it was trying to tell too many stories.

Apatow's also too in love with real-life wife Mann's acting, his nepotism too front and centre on every project and perhaps explaining why it felt like her entire subplot (the final third of the movie) could have been cut without losing too much.

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