Ross Douthat's column on Judd Apatow's "Funny People" is very good, for two reasons. The first is that it's simply a good column, and one of the first Ross has written that really plays to his strengths as a cultural critic and a translator of a certain socially conservative ethic. The second is that it reminds me to recommend that people see "Funny People." But go in with realistic expectations. This is not a funny movie. This is a sad movie about funny people. There are moments when you'll laugh, but the overarching narrative is not cheerful. The film is like nothing so much as having a hard conversation with a particularly witty friend. The jokes are there to ease the tension, but they don't resolve it.
In a way, "Funny People" is the movie that "(500) Days of Summer" promised to be. "(500) Days" sold itself as a courageous break from Hollywood conventions but flinched and delivered a slick reaffirmation of the traditional romantic comedy and the enduring possibility of a happy ending. "Funny People" sold itself as a fun film about frat boy comedians who discover the worth of life and love, but actually delivers a complex movie about a selfish man marooned in an unhappy life, and expressly rejects the cheap notion that years of bad choices can be wiped clean in a single moment of revelation and repentance.
The problem, of course, is that the people going to see "(500) Days of Summer" really want to see "(500) Days of Summer." The people going to see "Funny People" might want to see "Funny People," but it's not what they think they're seeing. When I walked out of the theater, I was a bit cool toward it. But the more I've thought about it, the more I actually like the film. And the more I think people should see it, and support this kind of moviemaking.
Photo credit: Tracy Bennett Photo .
August 10, 2009; 11:04 AM ET
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