Huh. I did not see this one coming…
I’ve been looking forward to the release of Judd Apatow’s Funny People for a long time. As soon as I saw the first trailer for it, I knew I’d love it. How could I not? I’ve loved almost everything else Apatow’s ever been involved with. So to be honest I was walking in with rather high expectations. But I have to say that most of my expectations were way off… In fact, I find my feelings about the movie are incredibly conflicted. I walked out of it almost positively sure that I didn’t like it. And yet, the more that I chew on it, I find myself coming back to how honest it is about how people might respond to the circumstances in which the movie presents. And the more I think about that, the more I like it.
Funny People is really the story of two people. One of them, George Simmons (Adam Sandler), is a world famous stand-up comedian and movie star. He’s experienced incredible success and, at the beginning of the movie, we find him right in the midst of it. He has a giant house, expensive cars, is loved by everyone, and has a stack of movie scripts to consider starring in. The other person is Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), a beginning stand-up comedian who works at a deli by day. Ira is struggling to make ends meet, living on his famous friend’s couch, and desperately trying to make something happen for him in comedy.
After a visit to the doctor’s office, George finds out he has a rare blood disease and is past the point of medical help. He’s told there are some experimental drugs he can try, but that he probably doesn’t have much longer to live. He heads to a comedy club to do some stand-up and, in the process, bumps Ira from his spot. George does a few minutes of comedy reflecting on life and death and bombs. Ira comes up after him and, seizing the opportunity, makes fun of how bad George was. This leads to George asking Ira to write some jokes for him, which leads to Ira becoming George’s assistant.
The two quickly bond, with Ira becoming, what George calls, his best friend. After another visit to the doctor, George finds out he’s beat the disease. This revelation provides us with the basic premise of the movie. George was confronted with the end of his life. He made peace with those around him, reassessed his priorities, and reflected on the lesson of his life. But, after getting a second chance, what will he do differently?
There’s really only one reason why I had such an initial dislike for Funny People. I didn’t like the choices that the characters made after George recovered from his illness. George decides, after recovery, to pursue his ex-girlfriend, who’s now married with two daughters. It starts out as him simply apologizing for cheating on her 12 years earlier, but then quickly evolves into an affair. I didn’t like this because I just didn’t buy it. I mean, I could see a lonely man going after someone who made him so happy in the past, no matter what the present circumstance. But I couldn’t see someone who left a relationship because their partner was cheating, then doing the same thing to her spouse and children.
I also didn’t like that, in the middle of his affair with his ex, George is confronted by Ira and told his behavior is wrong, only to blow up at Ira and remind him he’s the boss and Ira’s only there because George brought him along.
In short, I didn’t like how little all of the characters seemed to learn when confronted with death.
But as I said, after further thought, I began to like the movie more and more. I mean, I would love to think that if I were in George’s place I could make a giant life change and become a better person. But the truth is, until confronted with death, I have no idea how I’d react. The bigger truth is that George’s reaction might not be too far away from where I’d land. It’s light-years away from where I’d like to think I’d end up. But it might be so close to reality, that I became uncomfortable. Like when you walk close to a mirror only to be confronted with all of the wrinkles and scars you’ve earned in your life.
Funny People‘s true strength lies in its ability to allow you to insert yourself into both Ira and George’s place and ask yourself, what would I do? Most people have to have a direct encounter with death (be it theirs or a loved one’s) in order to truly examine their life. This movie is a great opportunity for you to have some discussions with people about things like death, life, and second chances without having to go through that.
Not to mention it’s really funny…
Josh Treece thinks he’s really funny. Unfortunately, his friends don’t think he’s quite as funny as he does. When he’s not cracking jokes, he’s ministering to teenagers.