Forgetting Sarah Marshall (***)

Posted on April 2nd, 2008 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Forgetting Sarah MarshallFirst and foremost, go into this movie with the realization that it is Rated R, and heartily deserves it.  If you are easily offended by nudity and/or sexual situations then you probably want to skip this film.  The scenes in question are not gratuitous and are germane to the plot, and are also some of the funniest scenes in the film.

And that's the key to this movie…it is funny…damn funny.  Judd Apatow and his ensemble have created another winner here, and it's looking to be a habit (Drillbit Taylor notwithstanding).  The screenplay was written by Jason Segal, who is also the star.  His character is a journeyman composer in the film and TV industry, but he happens to be dating the hot, blonde starlet (named, of course, Sarah Marshall) of a TV crime drama.  However, between her success and his professional mediocrity, she decides that they're "just going in different directions" and dumps him.

Peter Bretter (Segal's character, above left) tries several methods to cope with his broken heart, including sobbing, eating cereal, acting out at work, and nailing anything that moves.  Nothing helps – then a friend suggests that a vacation might be just the thing to break the funk.  Peter heads to a resort in Hawaii that Sarah had mentioned, and when he gets there who does he find?  Sarah (above, middle), of course, along with her new beau, the preening pop star Aldous Snow (above, right).

He also meets Rachel, who works the front desk of the resort.  As you might imagine, he and Rachel fall in love, but not without complications, of course.  All of the characters in this film seem like they would fit stereotypes from a hundred other romcoms, but they all seem to defy expectations by being more real and quirky than I expected.  Aldous Snow the pop star, in particular, really ends up differently than one might presume from his initial scenes.

And that seems to be the key to the Apatowian juggernaut – characters that feel real, that develop, and that are funny and poignant in ways that don't seem to be contrived for a film.  Now, I'm not saying that people in the real world would ever act exactly as these characters do in all situations – but it's close.  The characters also draw our instant empathy because of their familiarity, even Sarah.  She's not a demonized vixen, she's more like a confused person who let success go to her head, and now isn't sure how to act "normal" any more.

Jason Segal is the only credited writer for the screenplay, and if wrote all of it himself then it's an astonishing debut.  It was surprising and refreshing to hear snappy, funny dialog that didn't feel recycled or derivative – and he keeps it up throughout the entire film.

I'll wrap up by reiterating my opening warning – if you are offended by nudity and sexual content, you may want to skip this film.  I'll say no more other than to give you a quote from the film's producer, Judd Apatow:

"America fears the penis, and that's something I'm going to help them get over."

Don't say you weren't warned.

 

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