Friday, April 18, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (***)

Directed by Nicholas Stoller


Despite Forgetting Sarah Marshall being a startling impressive debut from director Nic Stoller, and featuring to television stars in Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis, the undeniable star of this film is Jason Segal. The film's writer, and main star, Segal's presence is the dominant one throughout. Segal is another member of the oh-so-popular Apatow comedy crew. I bet I wasn't the only one who cringed when Apatow but his name on a blunder like Drillbit Taylor, but it didn't take long, and with the help of Segal's hilarious script, the Apatow films continue on successfully.

Peter Bretter (Segal) is a composer who writes music for a hit cop television show titled "Crime Scene", and is lucky enough to be the boyfriend of the show's superstar lead, Sarah Marshall (Bell). Everything is fine for Peter, until Sarah decides to break up with him. The news is so surprising to Peter, it's jaw-dropping (and towel-dropping, with Segal letting it all hang out). He can't get over Sarah, but attempts to by sleeping with random women. Unfortunately, this doesn't fix his broken heart. Taking advice from his helpful step-brother Brian (Bill Hader), Peter decides to go on a vacation to clear his mind.

Off to Hawaii Peter goes, only to find that Sarah has decided to stay at the same hotel. Making it even more unbearable for Peter, is that Sarah has dragged along her sex-addicted, rock star boyfriend Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). The one bright spot in Peter's trip is meeting Rachel (Kunis), a free-spirited woman, who's sympathetic to Peter's plight, having been on the wrong end of break-ups before in her life. In between awkward moments and run-ins with the oddballs of the hotel, Rachel begins to help Peter realize that there may be more to life than just Sarah Marshall, as broken-hearted as he is.

So, we all know where this one is going to go, right? In a way, that is the beauty of all of the Apatow comedies. None of them are about the destination, but about the journey. Sure, plot lines are recycled throughout this film from other romantic comedies, but it's the execution of this picture that makes it so unforgettable and so unbelievably funny. Segal's script is so honest, yet so hysterical. The words are so subtle, sometimes the heart in them is hard to comprehend, particularly when they are behind so many weed and sex jokes. But the heart is there.

We've all heard by now of Segal's notorious full-frontal scenes. Other than shock value, the scene showcases Segal's commitment to the film (not that Segal appearing nude in a film is anything particularly surprising). Of course, the film's humor is abundant, such as the numerous segments from "Crime Scene", in which Sarah co-stars with William Baldwin, who spurts out one one-liner after another ("I don't think she'll be able to re-enter that pageant... without a face").

Segal is buoyed by his supporting cast. Kunis, who's grown into a glowing beauty since her days on "That 70's Show", is probably the most rounded female character in any of the Apatow comedies. Her brashness, as well as her sweetness, play well throughout. Bell, ironically a TV star herself with "Heroes" and the now-canceled "Veronica Mars", seems to add all of it to her role as Sarah Marshall. Of course, Sarah comes around to Peter again, but Bell pulls it off with honesty, not schitck. Then, of course, there is Russell Brand. Already a famous comic in England, Brand's spot-on portrayal of rock star narcissism is gut-bustingly funny, perhaps getting the biggest laughs of the whole movie.

There is no Apatow comedy without the onslaught of hysterical minor characters, fleshed out by the Apatow mainstays. There's Matthew (Jonah Hill), the waiter who is constantly pestering Aldous with his own rock star ambitions. There's Chuck (Paul Rudd), a surfing coach who is in a constant state of weed-induced utopia, allowing him to say such classic lines as "the weather outside is weather". Also, we meet Derald (Jack McBrayer from "30 Rock"), a God-fearing newlywed, whose frightened about having to consummate the marriage. These are roles and performances that are more ambient than useful to the plot, but without them, the film's hilarious energy would not be the same.

Overall, I don't know if I'd endorse this film as much as The 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up, but it is more in the league of last year's hit Superbad, and that's not a bad place to be. This is not a film for children, nor a film for anyone who is averse to seeing Jason Segal's penis (it makes a cameo in two scenes). But it is easily the best comedy to come out so far this year. Filled to the brim with uproarious scenes, it still manages to be somewhat earnest about heartbreak and falling in love. In the end, that's what makes it stay with you after you leave the theater.

1 comment:

Chloe Dinnerrolly said...

William Baldwin?
I thought his name was Billy.