Forgetting Sarah Marshall
year and a half ago, I interviewed Jason Segel, screenwriter and star of the
latest rude-but-surprisingly-charming romantic comedy out of the Judd Apatow
comedy stable - which has also spawned The
Forty Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad. (Segel has
worked with the producer since acting in Apatow's 1999 cult TV series Freaks and Geeks.) At the
time, Segel referred to a movie script he had written which was "with
Judd at Universal, hopefully to be done this hiatus."
Segel also discussed a character
development in his day job on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, with
a quote that turned out to possibly be a veiled reference to the movie script.
favorite comic tone is pathetic and single," Segel had laughed.
"I just think it’s funny...
It's maybe the most universal experience there is;
this feeling that you’re never going to find somebody...
It's the funniest area – the guy haplessly out there trying to date."
Now that script has been released to the
multiplexes as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and it is a gem, certainly
getting the Apatow brand back on track after one of the producer's
occasional missteps with the flatfooted Owen Wilson comedy Drillbit
There was a little to worry about here,
because it was the directing debut of Nicholas Stoller, the writer behind
another one of those missteps - the awful Jim Carrey remake of Fun With
Dick and Jane, however the redemption here is sweet. Not that
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is necessarily the best-directed film ever,
nor does it have to be. All Stoller really had to do was stay out of
the way and capture the clever banter, interesting story and corral the
quick comic actors.
Segel plays Peter Bretter, a struggling
musician who has put aside his composing aspirations to do "dark and moody"
backing music on a cheesy forensic police drama. He hates the job but
keeps it because he loves the star, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), a blonde
bombshell starlet who somehow (a staple in the Apatow world) has stuck with
this sweet but slightly unattractive, goofy, morose, homebody. I wish
I lived in Apatow's sphere - where gorgeous women are looking for the least
attractive, most socially inept men they can find.
However, after five years together, the
actress decides to trade up to a handsome, dangerous and just slightly
self-obsessed British rock star (Russell Brand). Peter spends months
moping about losing Sarah, but eventually decides he has to get away for a
while. He makes the not-exactly-well-thought-out decision to visit a
Hawaiian resort which Sarah had always raved about.
No big surprise, he has barely arrived at
the resort when he runs into Sarah and her lover. Suddenly he has gone
from a happy traveler to a sad and pathetic stalker who goes everywhere
alone. However, he finally befriends a beautiful and sympathetic hotel
worker named Rachel (Mila Kinis) and is able to start to move on with his
life. The problem is that when Sarah sees Peter starting to get
involved with Rachel, she starts to have second thoughts about leaving him.
Of course, word is already out there
about how completely Segel has thrown himself into the role, refusing to
feel any shame or indignity. In fact, he does the long
breakup scene completely naked. The film is a complete triumph for him
- both as a writer and as an actor.
Much of the cast is known more for
television than features, Segel from How I Met Your Mother and
Freaks and Geeks, Bell from Veronica Mars and Heroes,
Kunis from That 70s Show. They even tap into buzz character
actor Jack McBrayer in a supporting role, essentially playing a variation of
his character of Kenneth the NBC page on 30 Rock, here as an
inexperienced and uncomfortable honeymooner.
The nice surprise is that all of them are
fully capable of carrying a movie. (Well, except for McBrayer, who is
only there for supporting comic relief and whose shtick might get a bit
annoying if he were asked to shoulder more of the responsibility for the
film.) This is particularly gratifying for the gorgeous and charming
Kunis, whose career will hopefully blossom from this role after being a
little adrift in recent years with a bunch of nothing roles in the D-list
likes of American Psycho 2 and Tony & Tina's Wedding.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: April 18, 2008.