AWFJ Women On Film – “Funny People” – Susan Granger reviews

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It’s not surprising that comedy writer/director/producer Judd Apatow (“40 Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”) and actor Adam Sandler suddenly turned serious. Many comedians – Charlie Chaplin, Jerry Lewis, Woody Allen, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey – have sought validation in drama.

So raunchy George Simmons (Sandler), world-famous star of blockbuster comedies, discovers he has a rare but deadly form of leukemia. With no religion, no significant relationship and a life as empty as his Malibu mansion, Simmons is wretchedly lonely confronting his mortality. That’s why he forges a relationship with a struggling stand-up comic, Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), hiring him as a joke-writer/personal assistant, confiding only to him the secret about his terminal illness. Thrilled beyond excitement, Wright tastes the limo-to-the-jet life as Simmons schleps him along to a MySpace.com corporate event where troubadour James Taylor is the opening act. Acknowledging the presence of eager groupies, Simmons explains, “Girls like famous guys so I take advantage of it.” While Wright is proud and flattered to have been chosen to hover on the sidelines of the rich-and-famous – Eminem, Sarah Silverman, Paul Reiser, Andy Dick, Ray Romano and Norm Macdonald – he’s also ambitious and not above stealing his boss’s material.

At this point, the plot takes a maudlin, unexpectedly tedious U-turn. While taking experimental medicine to battle his blood disease, self-pitying Simmons reaches out to Laura (Leslie Mann, Judd Apatow’s real-life wife), the one woman he loved-and-lost. She’s married and the mother of two daughters (Apatow’s real-life children), living with her philandering Aussie-businessman husband (Eric Bana) in Northern California.

Transforming the oddly resentful anger that has always propelled the best of his comedy, Adam Sandler is convincing as the self-absorbed egomaniac. But Judd Apatow self-indulgently tries to cover too many bases, weaving in a subplot about Wright’s envious show-biz roommates (Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill) and the comedienne next-door (Aubrey Plaza), along with copious helpings of his trademark, trash-talking sexual humor. As a result, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Funny People” is a conflicted, intermittently engaging yet problematic 7, undoubtedly confounding the expectations of the usual Apatow/Sandler audience

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.