Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

With the possible exception of the genuinely moving Knocked Up and the deliciously shaggy dog of a film that is Pineapple Express, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is my favorite thing to role off the Apatow assemby line, as well as one of the few comedies I’m reasonably certain that people will still be watching a few decades from now. It’s a buoyant, quick witted farce that in true comedy tradition manages to leave everyone a little better off then they where found, and has the added benefit of making you laugh like a drain as well. There’s not much more you can ask for in a comedy.

The film follows Jason Segal as a schluby guy emotionally devastated when he is dumped by his long term girlfriend. Deciding to escape to Hawaii, things get even worse when said ex and her sex god rock star boyfriend end up at the same hotel. It sounds like sub sitcom plotting, and to a certain extent it is. But comedies unlike virtually every other genre has some leeway here. As long as its funny whatever else it is matters little.

It’s a film that lives on its cast. There is of course Russel Brand who kills from his first appearance, with the deliciously vapid would be anthem “We’ve Got To Do Something” ("How can you read if you are blind?") He reaches that perfect balance of Bono like pretensious pseudo profundity and Keith Richards libertine excess to create a comic caricature that’s equally true to life as he is absurd.

Kristen Bell elevates looking uncomfortable into a kind of art form here. She’s a gifted performer as well as a good actress and if she doesn’t start getting better films soon she’s going to end up the saddest wasted opportunity in Hollywood since Anna Faris.

Mila Kunis is one of those actresses who I’m informed I should hate. This is complicated by the fact that I’ve liked her in almost everything I have seen her in. In both this and Extract she’s proven herself to be a likable creative comedienne, and even made her, well shall we say unlikely casting in The Book Of Eli work. She’s a funny, natural presence with good taste in scripts and a uniquely sexy presence (and a voice to die for). I can’t help but like her.

Jason Segal is of course the one who anchors the film. He’s the ideal sad sack, with crack comic timing and a seemingly infinite capacity for disgrace. Able to get huge laughs both from gags as broad as him drunkenly weeping at his piano as he sings The Muppets theme song and as unlikely as “Now I have the freshest cereal.” The unexpected punch of him launching into his Dracula musical with a full Translyvanian accent is one of the most unexpected laughs I’ve had at the movies. Not to mention the scene in which he is invited to help prepare the next days dinner. A scene which nearly broke my ribs when I first saw it in theater. Like all great comics Segal knows there’s nothing funnier then someone trying desperately trying to keep their dignity.

Apatow’s films are often criticized for their bland visuals. But if such laziness is in evidence it is not in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Which possesses a bright appealing palate, a warm film stock and a keen visual wit, getting many laughs merely by contrasting the beauty of Segal’s magic hour surroundings with his abject misery.

For what it is, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is damn near perfect.


Hans A. said...

Totally agree. Brand and Segall are fantastic, but I think also Kunis and Bell really steal this one. Especially Kunis, and you completely described how good she is, Bryce. Really funny and sexy. Even the smaller roles with Rudd and Hill are pretty funny. I've been enjoying your entries, Bryce, since I've started following your blog; and they've all been stellar. Great stuff.

Unknown said...

Cinemax has been showing this film quite a bit and I always seem to catch it when it's on and enjoyed it very much. You're right about Kunis... she is very charming and a real cutey ta boot. I thought that she was also pretty good in MAX PAYNE as well. I remember watching her on THAT '70s SHOW. She sure has come a long way.

I also thought that Bill Hader was pretty hilarious as Segel's buddy. I love that bit where he makes fun of Segel's hat... "You look like one of those guys suspected of killing JFK!" Hah.

I've been fan of Segel's from way back. He had a memorable small part in SLC PUNK which is a really good film and worth checking out.

And Brand is hilarious in this film. A little bit goes a long way and that's what worries me about his new film where his character is the focus. Might be too much of a good thing.

Neil Fulwood said...

This one has managed to pass me by so far. Definitely going to add it to the rental queue, though.

Anonymous said...

Who has informed you of such nonsense? Hate Mila Kunis? What is there to hate? She's gorgeous and I could stare into her eyes for days.

One of my favorite comedies and top 10 in my list over the past 10 years.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Hans A: Thank you very much. Be assured that the admiration is mutual.

@ JD: Bill Hader is the only guy on SNL I can stand to watch. I love his Keith Morrison and Vincent Price.



@Neil: Glad to hear it Neil. I'm very interested to know what you think about it.

@PoT: I've heard a lot of people talk shit about her. Especially when Eli came out. I'm with you though *sigh*

Simon said...

Mila Kunis is adorable. I once spent an hour actively trying to hate her, and it was physically impossible.

Marcus said...

I just went from 6 to Midnight

Anonymous said...

I need to know who these 'people' are. I will send my band of ninjas, pronto.

And holy hilarious @Marcus. That is the best analogy for a boner I've EVER heard.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Simon: We need to start the league of people who don't hate Mila Kunis.

@ Marcus & PoT: I second that.