We saw the new Adam Sandler movie, FUNNY PEOPLE, in the theater in Cincinnati, of all places. The movie is directed by Judd Apatow (THE 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, KNOCKED UP), and also stars Seth Rogen and Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann. I went into it with mixed expectations -- because I'd seen mixed reviews, I suppose. In the end I quite liked it. It's far from perfect: it's too long, much of the comedy is crude in a way that doesn't appeal to me (and some just wasn't funny, sometimes on purpose, as it depicts failing comedians failing). But on balance it mostly works -- it's very moving at times, it's mostly pretty honest, seems to me, and it's quite ambitious, nearly achieving its ambitions.
Sandler plays George Simmons, who bears some (doubtless intentional) resemblance to Sandler himself: he's a middle aged comic who has made a lot of money making some silly films. (It would, I think, be unfair to insist overmuch on Simmons being Sandler, however.) Simmons, however, is not happy. He's very lonely -- he's too mean a guy to make friends, and he alienated his "one true love", Laura (played by Mann) some years ago, after which she left and got married and had a couple of kids. Then he learns that he has a terminal disease.
In an attempt to make some connection with the rest of the world before he dies (it seems) he ends up hiring, almost at random, Rogen's character, Ira Wright, who is a deli worker and a failing comedian. Wright lives on a couch at a friend's house -- the friend, played by Jason Schwartzman, has just hit it big (sort of) as the star of a dire sitcom called YO TEACH!. (Apparently a 21st century version of WELCOME BACK KOTTER, though the few scenes we see from YO TEACH! remind us that while WELCOME BACK KOTTER was indeed bad, it wasn't THAT bad!) Ira is supposed to help George write jokes, but though he does some of this he spends more time being George's personal assistant. As such he gets to try to sell Simmons's memorabilia (for charity) and accompany him to the doctor (in a very funny scene, with Simmons making vicious fun of his Swedish doctor's accent -- Simmons really is a jerk, the movie makes clear), as well as opening for George at some standup appearances. One of these leads to a reunion with Laura, which ends up putting a lot of stress on Laura's marriage ... though it's possible to believe the George really does have honest feelings for her. Meantime Ira is having typical Seth Rogen-character issues with women -- mainly, his attitudes toward them swing between crudely juvenile, as he seems to believe is expected, and overly shy, as he can't help being. But Ira ends up having to take a stand when he sees George bidding fair to mess up Laura's home life.
As I said, in the end I thought this a pretty darn good movie -- it tries to be a great movie, and it isn't, but it does give a fair try for a while. Some bits were funny, some were moving, some were simply honest. And I thought Sandler's performance very effective.
We also saw RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, on DVD after getting back from Cincy. I seem to recall that this movie was billed a comedy. Perhaps I'm misremembering. Anyway, it's not. It's a pure drama, Lifetime Cable style to tell the truth. Lifted above that level a bit by Jonathan Demme's stylish directing and by a fine performance by Anne Hathaway, but on the whole a disappointing movie.
Hathaway plays Kim, a woman in her twenties who has been clean and sober for 9 months after years of horrendous drug abuse. It turns out that while a teenager she drove a car off a bridge while high, and killed her younger brother. She hasn't forgiven herself, and neither has the rest of her family, though her rather ineffectual father tries to. Her sister (Rachel) is getting married, and Kim visits her old house, apparently for the first time in years. She's prickly as all heck, and so she makes trouble, but much of the trouble arises from her sister -- basically a decent person -- still not being able to forgive Kim for everything. Their father and mother have divorced. The mother, played by Debra Winger (her first role in, it seems, forever) does not come off well at all. The father is basically ineffectual, probably the only person in the film whose character is played somewhat for laughs. Rachel's fiance is a black musician, but he and his family have rather minor roles, mostly just there to be nice people.
We get a couple of days of family drama -- mostly a lot of arguing -- then a nicely-filmed, very Jonathan Demme-like wedding scene. It's not by any means a bad movie, but it struck me as nothing great either, and for much of its length kind of boring. Anne Hathaway's much-lauded turn as Kim was very fine work, no argument there, but the film as a whole left me flat.