Apatow's "Funny People": Oscar Contender?

11/23/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

As awards season draws nearer and nearer, studios will be pushing plenty of their films for consideration for numerous awards. Plenty of features are obviously going to get some attention; Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air," the Coens black comedy "A Serious Man," musical drama "Nine," and very likely James Cameron's alleged revolution of cinema, "Avatar." But Universal apparently has the unlikely Judd Apatow film "Funny People" up for consideration this year, notably for Best Picture and Best Actor for its star Adam Sandler.

It's not entirely out of the question that "Funny People" deserves some major credit. Apatow put in a respectable deal of effort combining the straight comedy of his first two features ("40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up") with drama in a way that has been compared to the works of James L. Brooks, but for me seemed a lot more similar to Woody Allen's more dramatic (but still comedy-infused) efforts. Critical responses were quite mixed, with some people praising Apatow's boldness and Sandler's performance and others...well, others were a lot less supportive, saying it was incredibly self-indulgent and the attempts at drama were half-hearted at best.

I don't really fall into any specific category with the film. I do quite like it, and it does have very admirable things to say about comedy, fame, fortune, etc., but nothing is really expounded upon at any great length and most of the film tends to fall more into melodramatic territory than straight drama. It works far better as a comedy, and the film clocks in at nearly two and a half hours, overstaying its welcome by about 40 minutes. A Best Picture nomination would be jumping the gun big time--I don't doubt Apatow may make further strides in drama if he decides to continue in that direction, but his first attempt simply is not deserving.

That said, Sandler did give a great performance. Is it Oscar-worthy? I don't believe so. I think the Academy messed up big time not nominating him for "Punch-Drunk Love," because I think that's just about the best we're going to get from Sandler, at least before he decides to slow down a bit with the juvenile comedies and focus on more serious comedy and drama permanently (if that day ever comes, that is).

The best bet I would've given "Funny People" for awards contention is for the screenplay, which I actually had read before seeing the film, and felt developed the concepts far better than the film itself (this probably has a lot to do with Apatow's inexperience as a director). I wouldn't be opposed to seeing Sandler get recognized for his performance, but I don't believe he deserves the win by any means and there have surely been better performances this year to focus on.

But all power to Universal for seeing a generally quality film for what it is and at least trying for some glory, even if the film doesn't quite deserve it, nor do I believe it'll get it. But we'll certainly see come February, and if anything, it will be very intriguing to see the Academy give some attention to a non-independent comedy for once.

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  1. Rebecca said...

    Funny People? Really? As in, Really? Oh, please. Next they'll be putting up 2012 for best picture. I hated this movie.