Adam Sandler plays a 42-year old comic named George Simmons. He’s had a good run, and even had a nice movie career. He has everything you could want: an expensive car, a big house, and a great sense of humor. The women want him and the guys want to be his friend. He knows a lot of people but has no close friends, probably because he’s a very miserable and self-involved person. One day he learns that he has a rare untreatable blood disorder, and only has six months to a year left to live. This is the the beginning of the film.
Seth Rogen plays Ira, a 25-year-old deli counter worker and aspiring stand-up comedian who performs for free at a small LA stand-up club. He’s yet to figure out his stage persona, and his friends don’t even come to his shows for support. His jokes are pretty much what you might expect. Imagine what Seth Rogen would sound like if he were a stand-up comedian.
Ira lives with two roommates, an aspiring comedian who has just been accepted to become an Improv regular named Leo (Jonah Hill) , and a sitcom star who likes to gloat about his newfound salary named Mark (Jason Schwartzman).
One night Ira gets bumped when George shows up unannounced at his club, pushing Ira’s performance. Ira ends up bombing, but Simmons sees something in the young comedian and hires him to write jokes and be his semi-personal assistant. George becomes a quasi-mentor to Ira, basically playing him $6000 a month for his company/friendship. George also gives Ira an opportunity to open up for him at various gigs.
This is the meat of the film, a story of two people connecting with each other – an aspiring young comedian and a dying middle aged comedian who now has the power of hindsight. But does George learn anything from his near death experience and newfound friendship with Ira or is he still his old self-centered self?
George confides in Ira that he’s dying, and Ira eventually convinces George to tell people about his illness. I’ve heard that Norm Macdonald has a cameo as one of George’s old Comedian friends.
And there is Laura (played by Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann), the love of his life, now in her late 30’s, married with two kids. Laura broke up with George over a decade earlier when she learned that he was cheating on her. Once an actress, Laura has become a full-time bored and some-what depressed mother, living in a ranch home in a small town. Laura and George reconnect when she learns of his illness.
Much fuss was made of Eric Bana’s comedy past when the casting announcement was first made, but Bana actually doesn’t have a comic role in the film. Bana plays Laura’s successful husband Clarke, who is always traveling to China on business. It is also worth noting that Bana doesn’t appear until late into the film. You can probably see where that storyline might be heading, so I’ll say no more.
Meanwhile, Ira meets a young alternative comic named Daisy (Aubrey Plaza), who also lives in his apartment building. He asks her out on a date but before it happens, Ira makes a discovery that could be detrimental to their possible relationship. It feels like Apatow is trying to inject some Kevin Smith into the story, but it’s not developed enough. Daisy is one-dimensional, and the relationship seems a bit forced and unnecessary.
There are twists and turns, a confrontation between Ira and his roommates, and a climax set as far outside the world of stand-up comedy as you can get. Funny People is very different tonally than anything Apatow has done before. For example, there is a moment where Ira and George have a conversation, which ends with both of them in tears. The film will probably better classified as a dramedy than a full out comedy. Apatow might have a shot at Academy Award consideration if he does this right.
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