5 Funny Biographical Films
Biopics have a notorious reputation for being nothing more than super serious Oscar bait. Some meddle with the truth and provide one-sided narratives like Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody. Others are self-indulgent vanity projects like Madonna’s on-again, off-again biopic that has yet to come to fruition after years of development. But not all life stories are soulless slogs — some of them are even funny as hell. Whether it’s an anachronistic retelling of a decadent teen queen or tracking the meteoric rise and fall of one of society’s hottest communication devices, here are five great biopics with a serious sense of humor…
Florence Foster Jenkins
One avenue many filmmakers take when deciding on a subject for a biographical feature is to find someone of noteworthy talent to highlight. This, however, wasn’t the case for Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins, which focuses on an American socialite and amateur singer who couldn’t actually sing. Meryl Streep portrayed the “world’s worst opera singer” who became infamous for her flamboyant costumes and poor singing ability. But the film’s joie de vivre comes from Streep’s compassionate depiction and Frears’ direction of a script that consciously ensures the audience is laughing with Jenkins and not at her.
Most biopics, especially when they’re period pieces, adhere to strict historical accuracy. Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette isn’t like most biopics. The flashy film backed by a contemporary soundtrack features a committed performance from Kirsten Dunst as the rebellious queen in a world famously run by men. While it upset some critics at the time, Coppola concerns herself more with the satirical lens she puts on the grandeur and opulence that led to the French Revolution than providing any kind of history lesson. After all, that’s what Les Mis is for.
As much as Android users will tout their device’s state-of-the-art technology and game-changing features, it’s no match for the powerhouse that is Apple’s iPhone. But before the iPhone, there was a smartphone that acted like a tiny mobile computer from our friends to the North. Matt Johnson’s 2023 biographical comedy BlackBerry follows the titular innovation from two Canadian tech wizzes that sees its historic rise and catastrophic demise at the hands of a maniacal businessman played by Always Sunny’s Glenn Howerton. If you haven’t seen it yet or just loved Howerton’s unhinged performance as Jim Balsillie, then you’re in luck — AMC is airing the film as a three-part limited series with bonus footage.
The Disaster Artist
What happens when two men who couldn’t be any more different end up developing an unlikely friendship? If you said “make the worst movie ever made,” then you’d be absolutely correct. But this isn’t that movie. This is the movie about that movie and the comedy of errors that was its production. Brothers James and Dave Franco star as Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, the aspiring actors responsible for giving the world the now cult classic The Room and the world’s greatest line reading in “Oh hi Mark.” The meta-comedy even features an appearance from Wiseau himself.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
A lot of struggling writers have side hustles: bartending, Postmating, literary forgery. Melissa McCarthy took a break from her usual rambunctious fare for a more understated role in the criminally underappreciated tragicomedy Can You Ever Forgive Me? as author Lee Israel, whose most noted writing wasn’t her own but rather the letters from deceased authors and playwrights she forged and sold all over New York. Life — and the law — catches up with Israel, and instead of revitalizing her career as intended, she finds herself losing her only friend, joining AA and being sentenced to house arrest. While that all sounds rather dark, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty took a great level of care and levity in writing the screenplay, which was adapted from Israel’s own confessional memoir.