Tuesday 19 August 2014

Movie Review: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

A raunchy sex comedy with some romance elements, Forgetting Sarah Marshall finds humour in breakups, new beginnings, and revenge sex in the alternate reality of a picture-perfect Hawaiian resort.

Peter (Jason Segel), the creator of music for television shows, is unceremoniously dumped by girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Bell), the glamorous sex-symbol star of a CSI-style series. Unable to get over the breakup, Peter seeks to mend his broken heart at a Hawaiian resort only to find Sarah also vacationing there with new boyfriend Aldous (Russell Brand), a global pop music star.

As Peter and Sarah do their best to avoid each other and regularly fail to do so, Peter meets the resort's receptionist Rachel (Mila Kunis), and they start a tentative relationship. Surrounded by assorted other guests and resort employees stumbling through their own issues, Peter, Sarah, Rachel and Aldous need to untangle their lives, which suddenly become more complicated when Sarah receives unwelcome news.

Co-produced by Judd Apatow, directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a rare example of an adult sex comedy that actually works, and without resorting to toilet humour. The film's success resides with Segel's witty script, which in addition to a continuous stream of raunchy situations creates a large number of memorable and often hilarious characters, even in the smallest roles, and sets them loose to do their thing.

The depth of enjoyment within the ranks of the secondary characters is quite remarkable. The list covers Russell Brand as Aldous Snow, Jonah Hill as Matthew the waiter with stardom aspirations, Paul Rudd as Kunu the surf dude with memory issues, Jack McBrayer and Maria Thayer as the newlyweds with wildly diverging sex drives, Bill Hader as Peter's stepbrother and even William Baldwin and Jason Bateman doing their best David Caruso impressions in promo snippets as Sarah's co-stars.

In most other comedies these secondary and tertiary roles would be sketched in and played by nobodies. Here they are recurring and sustained, carrying their own comic momentum and delivered by actors keen to leave an impression. Brand, in particular, delivers a performance so cool and laid back as the superstar who stole Sarah's heart, that it's impossible not to fall under his magnetic spell.

And in the three main roles, Segel, Bell and Kunis shine as the three awkward points of the love triangle. Segel has rarely been better in a restrained performance that emphasizes pathos over doofiness. Bell is perfectly cast as Sarah, an ice cold and self-assured television star who will unexpectedly meet her own vulnerabilities once she hits a crisis point. And in a breakout role, Kunis dazzles with a fresh spray of girl-next-door appeal.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is firmly aimed at adults, and the unrated version does not shy away from nudity (mostly Segel's) and several scenes of couples energetically and loudly coupling for comic effect. The film wastes no time in setting up the premise, surrounding it by anarchy and then vigorously milking it for all its worth over the course of 110 frantic minutes. While most of the jokes do work, the approach here is that the next good gag is only as far as the next minute.

With talent in peak form delivering the laughs, Forgetting Sarah Marshall will be no easy task.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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