Monday, April 21, 2008


On Friday night I caught a showing of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the Judd Apatow-produced comedy written by and starring Jason Segel. I had a feeling the movie would be a good one, and I was right. In addition to being very, very funny, the film has a tremendous heart. It owes much of its appeal to Segel, who takes his excellent script to the next level with his brave and endearing performance. (No, he's not a conventional hottie. But after seeing Sarah Marshall, I kind of have a big crush on him. I probably won't be the only one, either.) The movie follows Segel's Peter Bretter, a television composer whose bombshell girlfriend (Kristen Bell) dumps him in the opening scene-- while he's nude. (The movie has a surprising amount of full frontal male nudity for an R rated picture. They probably get away with it because it's played for laughs.) Peter wallows in despair and meaningless one night stands (some of which are hilariously bad) before his stepbrother (Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader) convinces him to get out of his rut by taking a Hawaiian vacation. Of course, once Peter gets there he realizes this attempt to escape his ex's shadow has a fatal flaw: she's there, too, with a flamboyant Brit pop star boyfriend (Russel Brand) in tow. Luckily, an incredibly cute, charming hotel staff member named Rachel (Mila Kunis) is there to help him realize there's more to life than Sarah Marshall. But can Peter finally let go before he alienates his new flame, too? Key to any comedy's appeal is its cast, and Marshall is blessed with an impeccable ensemble. Bell is wonderful as a potentially unsympathetic character; she's able to convey her character's cold nature without dehumanizing her. Kunis is utterly charming as Rachel, a woman miles away from her bratty That '70s Show persona. She actually acts here (and while I'm sure she always could, her role on that series didn't really require her to) and helps anchor the film with her convincing presence. Brand steals the show as the wacky rocker, Aldous, who somehow manages to be both a tool and a likable fellow, after all. (Even Peter can't help liking the guy, much as he doesn't want to.) Meanwhile, Seth Rogen pops up as a dork hopelessly enamored with Aldous, and 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer plays an awkward newlywed overwhelmed by his bride's lust. Ultimately, though, the reason I loved this film was because it manages "to render love convincingly" (to steal a phrase from an old Armistead Maupin review). Segel has fantastic chemistry with Kunis, and their courtship was delightful to watch unfold. Rachel's gentle encouragement causes Peter to take chances and to begin to actualize some of his own dreams (after years of doting on his starlet significant other). The movie really hit home for me; see, I've been trying to forget my own "Sarah Marshall," and in the course of watching Peter's story I realized that as tough as it is to get over a relationship, it's absolutely necessary. Otherwise you might just miss out on the next great phase of your life. For the multi-talented Jason Segel, meanwhile, that next phase looks especially bright.

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