Thursday, May 01, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Forgetting Sarah Marshall probably doesn't have as many laughs per minute as Knocked Up (as I wrote here), but I think it may be a slightly better movie because it tries to do less. Jason Segel's script nails a couple of specific emotional moments for its female characters that I don't think Katherine Heigl ever quite gets in Knocked Up. But first things first...the much talked-about male nudity in FSM is so fleeting as to be almost polite. It's so inconsequential to the story that I don't really know what else to say about it except that a more cynical blogger than I am would probably conclude the whole thing was just an effort to get extra publicity for the movie.

Sarah (Kristen Bell) learns about halfway through FSM that her ridiculous crime drama series has been cancelled. When she relays this information to her boyfriend Aldous (Russell Brand, hilarious)the best he can do is offer her a chance to go on tour with his band for 18 months. Sarah, worried about her career, declines. Bell plays this scene with a spirit that would make Veronica Mars proud, not afraid to embrace the fact that it reveals that Sarah is a power dater and not much interested in anyone other than herself. But she's also career-minded in a realistic way that the women in other Apatowian movies aren't, since the women in The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up exist mainly as vehicles for male maturation.

When Aldous leaves Sarah makes an aborted attempt to seduce ex-boyfriend Peter (Segel), leading to a scene in which Peter must confess the indiscretion to new love Rachel (Mila Kunis). Rachel, having just slept with Peter the night before, is unforgiving and the moment worked for me because her anger comes from an emotional betrayal and not just disappointment at Peter's childishness. (Peter needs to get out of the house more but is otherwise a functioning adult.) Kunis is charming here, FSM is no doubt a career maker for her, but Rachel is just as unsettled and amorphous as Peter. I was almost rooting for Sarah and Peter to reconnect with both of them the wiser for the experience, but the Rachel-Peter hookup is no surprise.

I'll be interested to see what Segel writes next (a new Muppet movie?), since this script is just different enough for me to recommend the movie.There's plenty of shambling humor in FSM, thanks to Segel, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd, and Jonah Hill (who doesn't add much here). I'm already a little tired of this subgenre, let's have a romantic comedy about a unambitious woman and a Type A man. Otherwise, we're on our way to some diminshing returns.

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