More bittersweet comedy drama from Judd Apatow
In his third film as director, Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) spreads his wings with a bittersweet drama about the moral vacuity of celebrity. Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a stand-up actor gone Hollywood, whose success in films like The Merman and My Best Friend Is A Robot doesn’t disguise his loneliness. The hopelessness of his situation is brought into sharp relief when he’s diagnosed with a terminal illness, but Simmons’ unexpected friendship with struggling comedian Ira (Seth Rogen) re-awakens the veteran’s sense of him own worth, with problematic results.
Apatow’s characters have regularly been drawn from the fringes of the entertainment industry, and Funny People’s first hour benefits from well-drawn ‘insider’ humour, with Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman on top form as Ira’s flat mates, and a plethora of knowing cameos, including James Taylor as a cynical version of himself and a hilarious spat between a grouchy Eminem and Everyone Love’s Raymond’s Ray Romano. But while Sandler and Rogen inhabit their characters convincingly, a mid-story plot twist switches moods towards a protracted and bitterly painful set piece when George and Ira visit Simmons’ ex-girlfriend Laura, played by Apatow’s real-life wife Leslie Mann.
Funny People feels like a brave and personal film from Apatow, and certainly goes deeper than most bromances would dare. But the mixture of self-pitying, tears-of-a-clown introspection and endless dick-jokes soon loses its charm.
General release from Fri 28 Aug. (15) 145min .