Forgetting Sarah Marshall
He's done it again. Producer Judd Apatow's policy of keeping faith with his friends paid off handsomely with last year's Superbad and Knocked Up. Walk Hard and Drillbit Taylor were a little disappointing, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall looks like it will be another popular smash, and it breaks another new comedy star in Jason Segel.
Segel wrote the screenplay but it's unlikely anyone but Apatow would have let him play the lead role, struggling composer Peter Brettner. After all, unless you're a fan of Apatow's cult TV shows Freaks And Geeks and Undeclared (neither of which made it to a second series), you're unlikely to recognise him. Aside from his supporting role (as Jason) in Knocked Up, the high point on his filmography is probably three episodes of CSI.
Segel doesn't look like a movie star, any more than Seth Rogen. He looks like a bloke down at the pub: tall, gangly, a bit goofy. Then again, he certainly knows how to make an impression. Within the first three minutes he plays a break-up scene with Sarah (Kristen Bell, TV's Veronica Mars) completely starkers ' the full frontal male nudity as startling here as it was in Walk Hard.
Peter is devastated. They've been together for five years, and Sarah is the love of his life, so he thinks. She's pretty, blonde and the star of the hit TV show ('Crime Scene') he also works on. He's never going to get over her.
Best friend Brian (Bill Hader) suggests he should get away from it all, but the Hawaii resort Sarah always raved about probably isn't the safest choice, and Peter hasn't even checked in before he bumps into his ex, now draped around libidinous British pop star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Neither party is inclined to move out.
Segel may not be familiar with Noel Coward's Private Lives (vintage 1930), in which a divorced couple find themselves honeymooning with new partners in adjacent rooms, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall is squarely in that lineage, albeit with a modern, new man-ish hero.
Lovelorn Peter cuts a tragic figure, dining on his lonesome, drinking massively, weeping hysterically. Perhaps that flirty girl in customer services (Mila Kunis) can help?
First time director Nicolas Stoller (another old Apatow associate) is pretty cack-handed with the camera ' he almost completely blows the fulcrum moment when the ex-lovers discover they're vacationing together, and several flat, early scenes stick out like sore thumbs, there's so little flow. But it doesn't matter. The writing is funny and the casting clicks.
Self-deprecating and useless in the nicest possible way, Segel is someone you naturally root for ' just look at the way he fails to jump off a cliff, or the way he admits he probably hasn't got what it takes to keep two women happy. The movie has the same winning mixture of sentiment and sexual candor (a very funny quick montage of one night stands, for example, and a running gag about an unhappy honeymooning Christian trying to crack his wife's clitoris) that characterised The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up.
The laughs come thick and fast, and several cameos hit the spot, especially when Paul Rudd shows up as a permanently stoned surfing instructor.
The movie is also something of a triumph for Russell Brand. It must have been awfully tempting to turn rock 'n' roll love god Aldous into a caricature, but Brand doesn't make him any more ridiculous than he needs to be. Instead he plays him as a real person on his own terms. It's a very finely judged, mature performance in what proves to be a very agreeable rib-tickler.
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