2009 // USA // Judd Apatow // January 7, 2010 // DVD - Universal (2009)
B - Funny People represents a distillation of the best qualities from Judd Apatow's previous film, Knocked Up. In this dark, meandering tale of second chances and human fallibility, the director employs both his ruthless pursuit of affecting emotional detail and the self-effacing vibe of star Seth Rogan (in his plush animal mode). Meanwhile, the film jettisons the last Apatow outing's retrograde sexual politics and ridiculously pat conclusion, resulting in a melancholy film that reveals the director not as an intrinsically comedic film-maker, but as someone interested in the absurdity of psychological landscapes. Thus, Funny People, while hardly a barrel of laughs, is nonetheless perceptive, audacious, and weirdly charming. Adam Sandler indicts his own career via a thinly-veiled alter ego, and Leslie Mann's character devastatingly demonstrates how bright, bighearted people can make unbelievably stupid decisions. Apatow's focus on his characters' feelings rather than the narrative is both a strength and a weakness. Absent a conventional structure or a clear antagonist, Funny People spins off the rails a bit in the final half-hour, as the director searches for a way to conclude a story that has no end. Still, the film proves to be an invigorating slap to viewers expecting yet another storybook conclusion.