Funny People

July 31st, 2009

I saw Funny People tonight, and it is one of the rare films that connects thoughts which have come and gone, flutterings of insight that did not quite make it. It connects them into a cohesive whole, making what before was brief moments of illumination into understanding.

The movie may not be for everyone. It is long, the humor is crude, maybe even infantile… and yet it is the most serious film I have seen in quite a while. It may not be for everyone, but that is okay. It was for me.

George Simmons is, much like Adam Sandler, a stand-up comedian who became successful making stupid films. He lives in a mansion in Malibu, surrounded by more flat-screen TVs and cars and fireplaces and pools and computers and stuff, more stuff, than you can imagine. But in the pursuit of his career, in the pursuit of success, in the pursuit of his own ego and selfishness, he lost his friends, and the person he loved. So he sits in his mansion, or beside his pool, alone. Surrounded by stuff which just reminds him of his own unhappiness. Because every expensive item that he has is just a reminder of his own failure.

One minor scene struck me in particular. George sat in his well-equipped music room, playing guitar and singing with three other guys. He plays and sings remarkably well; he seems happy. And then one of them tells him that they are going over time. “I wish I didn’t have to pay you all to be friends with me,” George emotionlessly observes ostensibly as a joke, the other men’s demeanor not changing a bit. He begins another song.

It is the loneliness of having what many would consider everything — the ability to buy or do whatever he chooses. Yet that ability is the reminder that he has nothing. Who would he share it with? The only people he has around him are people he pays.

Perhaps this might be cliché. But it is also a truth that I, and if I may, we, forget too often: material goods do not make you happy. Buying things does not make you feel better. It is the thought and effort you put into something that is valuable, not the thing itself. Happiness begins with you, and cannot come from the outside.