Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Saw this one a few nights ago. What a treat! This movie takes its cue from the standard break up, meet someone new who's so much better for you when you weren't trying to meet anyone, but it adds its own flavor. The Apatow-buddy supporting players add some great comedic moments (Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill doing some legwork). Jason Segel carries his weight, as well. He is hilariously awkward, executes the deadpan stuff perfectly, and the chemistry between he and Mila Kunis is surprisingly genuine.

Despite the fact that it looks like a pretty standard romantic comedy, I feel like Nicholas Stoller, Judd Apatow and Segel were trying to do something new. The first time I realized this was in the beginning breakup scene, which includes THREE SHOTS, albeit brief, of Segel's junk. Seeing this movie in the suburbs of New Jersey, where NO ONE expects to see dick on screen, made these moments even more hilarious. The audience was shocked, maybe even a little repulsed, but I think they still found it hilarious (though I could hear murmurs of old people asking why they kept showing his penis). And they made sure they got one more full frontal on Segel before the end.

Also, the moments between the main character Peter Bretter and ex Sarah Marshall are startlingly real. They talk about genuine things related to their prior relationship in a very adult, uncinematic way. These moments are combined with personal flashbacks to moments that illustrate a feeling they express, or directly counter something that they express. These flashbacks are not handled in the typical way: no sound effect with a fade to white, or some kind of transition, just hard cuts, employing some good old Soviet montage, and putting a little faith in the intelligence of the audience. And, after the flashbacks, there were no violent head-shakes trying to clear away the thoughts, or any other acknowledgments that what was just seen was a flashback. It just continues on, and we see the looks on the characters' faces in a new light. The audience does the work, here, which is a pleasure to see.

All throughout, discussion of sex is very frank. There is no holding back of profanity, no indirect reference (other than a line where Peter's step-brother says "You don't need to put your P in some girl's V," and Peter says, "No, I need to B my L on some girl's T's). When promiscuous new boyfriend to Sarah Marshall Aldous Snow advises a stranger on good sex, he makes no effort to avoid talking about Deep Penetration and Stimulating the Clitoris.

Basically, it looks like the ensemble came together to put a real and comedic twist on a tried-and-true genre, and I think it paid off in spades. While it's not the funniest movie I've seen in a while, it beats out plenty of others. It maintained my attention the whole way through, had me laughing, and I came away feeling some genuine affection for the Mila Kunis/Jason Segel couple.

Oh, and extra points for using Jason Bateman in a clip during the credits.

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