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A few days ago, I posted a comment on one of Roger Ebert's most recent journal entries on his website, rogerebert.com. I told him a bit about where I am coming from, and asked him for some input on my review of Funny People.
Here is the post and the response!
By Jordan W on September 21, 2009 2:57 PM
I am a long time reader, first time poster, and I have to say that I really admire your journal entries. I always stop by to read, and I definitely look forward to seeing Leaves of Green and Tilda Swinton's new film. She is very remarkable, and I have always felt very strongly about her films and her performances.
I am just starting my freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University, and I am interested in journalism and film criticism. I would like to ask for some of your input on one of my recent reviews. This is a new passion for me, not movies but rather taking the time to sit and write out reviews of them. It would be great to hear what you think!
Thanks so much!
FUNNY PEOPLE ( Judd Apatow, USA 2009)
I am tired of hearing that Judd Apatow's movies are too long. The 40-Year-Old Virgin was too long, Knocked up was too long, and now it is almost a unanimous decision among viewers: "Funny People is TOO LONG!"
That is absolute nonsense. I think that Apatow makes his movies long because he wants to tell a story that is complete and full, and because he wants to fully involve the audience with his characters, who tend to be deep and thoughtful, multi-dimensional people with lives and feelings. That is what sets his films and is writing apart from most comedies. Attention spans are required.
The film centers upon famous comedian George Simmons, played by Adam Sandler, who is told that he is dying of a rare blood disease. He lives alone in an enormous Los Angeles mansion, and has made several hit movies outside of his stand up career. Unable to cope with his illness, he reaches out to an ambitious up-and-comer named Ira Wright, played by Seth Rogan, and hires him to write new material for his routine.
Simmons also has a lost love, Laura, played by Leslie Mann, whom he attempts to win back, despite the fact that she is married and has two children, once again played by Apatow's real life daughters, Iris and Maude.
To me, this all plays out so well, and some of the movie's richest, most moving scenes come in the third act. I cannot understand why these scenes have upset so many people. Throughout the film, Judd Apatow's writing flows beautifully, and his characters are unique and memorable.
All three of Apatow's films have been excellent comedies. I enjoyed Knocked Up more than Virgin, and I enjoyed Funny People more than Knocked Up. Judd Apatow has stated that his "goal was to make a film that was just as funny as my other two films, but which also dug a lot deeper and was not afraid to be more emotional." He has greatly succeeded here in bringing out what I believe to be Adam Sandler's best performance, alongside his performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love, and his finest writing thus far in his career.
The supporting work in the film is equally brilliant, with Leslie Mann and Seth Rogan at their best, and Eric Bana, who I have never seen behave in such a way, but I loved it. Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill are also very good as Ira's roommates.
The film also looks incredible, largely due to the hiring of Janusz Kaminski, who has previously worked with Steven Spielberg on Schindler's List and Minority Report. Wow! What is interesting about this is that in Knocked Up, Seth Rogan's character discusses the notion that if he and his friends are able to effectively pick up women, that it is because of Eric Bana in Munich. And here he is in Funny People. Kaminski worked on Munich as well.
I look forward to Judd Apatow's next projects. This is only his third movie, and hopefully there will be many more. He is a genius, and I hope he keeps digging deeper and funnier.
Ebert: Apatow may fall a tad shirt of the genius level, but you have a nice conversational writing style and allow the reader to feel you are confiding.