Forgetting Sarah Marshall

dir: Nicholas Stoller
[img_assist|nid=27|title=It's Russell Brand's movie, but the rest of you can tag along if you want|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=476]
This is being released under the “Judd Apatow” banner as if Judd’s name alone is now a seal of filthy comedy approval. Wondering if a comedy is funny? Well, Judd Apatow was involved, so it must be so funny you’ll laugh until you rupture something.

Okay, so 40-Year-Old Virgin was funny, and Knocked Up was funny. Apatow directed them. But now are we really meant to believe that Apatow doesn’t even have to make the movies for them to be funny? He just “produces” them under the Apatow Productions banner, other people direct them, and they’re still full of Apatow-y goodness.

I think not. Even with the commercial and critical success of some of his comedies, the law of diminishing returns kicked in around the time of Drillbit Taylor. Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn’t going to kill off the Apatow bandwagon, but it might throw a wrench or two into the spokes.

It’s not a horrible film, in fact it’s relatively funny at some stages. The main actors aren’t horrible, the costumes are nice, the lighting was okay, and the make-up work is top notch throughout. I don’t know what the catering was like, but it was probably okay. No-one looks like they got sick from bad food, so that’s my assumption as to the relative merits of the food service.

Key grips, teamsters, extras, the people doing the incidental music: They all did a good job. But at practically no stage could I figure out why I should give a damn about any of it.

It’s mostly, for such a long-arse film, pleasant the way that a long, slightly boozy lunch at a café with friends can be nice. It meanders along, doesn’t require anything too profound to be said or discussed, and can end at any stage without seeming arbitrary or cut short. The flick could have gone for an hour more or an hour less, and really wouldn’t have suffered either way. There’s no feeling of moving forward towards anything throughout the flick. It just is, exists, like a pet rock or extra pockets on a pair of cargo pants that never get used and never need to get used.

People just talk and talk, and it never really amounts to anything. The relationships and characters aren’t really that fleshed out; they simply exist so that the protagonist can spend 90 per cent of the film wallowing in grief and bitterness before the Big Finish where he learns all that life has to teach him so that everything can get wrapped in a neat little package. Or medium sized package, taking the genitalia he possesses which gets flashed at film’s beginning and ending.

My biggest problem with the flick is that whilst I like the lead actor, being Jason Segel, I don’t really find his acting convincing in this flick at all. The Peter character is a decent enough stand-in for the actor himself, since he also wrote the script. But on the most part I just found his acting almost impossible to accept, and that jarred a bit.

The flick, as the terrible title might suggest, is about a fairly young shluby guy going out with a B-list actress who eventually gives him the flick. He takes the break-up badly, and finds that meaningless sex and lots of crying does nothing to assuage his pain. When his no-ex Sarah (Kristen Bell) is dumping him, he’s naked, and refuses to put clothes on in the vain hope that somehow it will prevent her from leaving him.

But even showing his three-piece suite to the world (and to us, the audience) can’t stop the blonde starlet from kicking him to the kerb. You see, he is emotionally and physically naked, displaying to us how defenceless he is in the face of such sorrow.

What a bold, new age of the cinema we are entering. Behold New Cinema Apatow Man: he’s smutty and a bit immature, but now he’s not afraid to cry and cry and cry like a little girl with a skinned knee.

That’s dramatic complexity, right there. On the advice of a friend who rarely seems that friendly, Pete takes a break from LA and the cop forensic show he does the music for that Sarah also stars in, and goes for a holiday to a resort in Hawaii that Sarah used to talk about all the time.

Lo and behold, whoda thunkit? Sarah and her new partner, British rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) are also at the exact same resort. So now not only does Pete have to continue to try to pick up the pieces of his broken bitch heart, he has to do it publicly and in the reflected glow of his former partner’s full view.

By the way, Whoda Thunkit was a famous female playwright in the 1930s, whose most successful work was Blind Tiger Pulling Suds on the Side, which focused on the perils and pitfalls of a Depression and Prohibition-era family trying to make a go of it through difficult, union-dominated times. Nicole Kidman is attached to star and is demanding an Oscar in advance in the uplifting lead role of a blind and deaf matchstick seller with fourteen kids to look after, one of them played by a bag of liposuctioned fat removed from Rene Zellweger after she played Bridget Jones in those awful films. And yes Nicole Kidman’s Virginia Woolf stunt-nose from The Hours will be making a comeback.

A feisty young lady working the counter at the resort, Rachel (Mila Kunis) takes pity on sad sack Peter and tries to help him out of his self-created predicament. Perhaps out of pity at first, or perhaps she recognises in him a kindred spirit damaged by a previous relationship who’s also stuck in a rut due to inertia. Whatever the reason, however unlikely it is, she chooses to allow Pete into her life and presumably her body.

But is Peter ready to move on? He keeps mooning over Sarah even as he flashes back to moments during his relationship he never thought about that much, which stand in stark contrast with how rose-coloured his glasses are regarding the relative crapiness of it. He starts off hating Sarah’s new beau, seeing as Aldous is beloved by millions, mega-wealthy and so ridiculously cool and disorientated that he’s like a cross between Captain Jack Sparrow and, well, Captain Jack Sparrow if he were a rock star instead of a pirate.

He comes to appreciate Aldous only when he realises that the addled rock star doesn’t really give a damn about Sarah anyway. And Sarah, on the other hand, has problems of her own, not least of which is the honest admission that she tried damn hard to make their relationship work, which he was oblivious to the entire time.

Also, she has the problem of aging. See, she’s nearly 30, and, well, that brings its own uniquely Hollywoodian perils.

In a strange interlude, the actress playing Sarah Marshall, played by Kristen Bell, talks about a terrible movie she was in recently, which sounds suspiciously like the movie Pulse which starred, you guessed it and didn’t care, Kristen Bell. The other characters take turns ripping the shit out of the film the actress actually starred in, as she makes excuses as to why the crappy horror flick wasn’t a complete sack of crap. How about them insider references, eh?

As is key to these films, there’s lots of smutty adult humour, which goes more for the sexual angle rather than the crude angle so favoured by children everywhere. Little of it really made me laugh that much, since I am ever so mature and ever so haughty in my lofty maturity. The thing is, even if it isn’t rib-ticklingly funny, I appreciate that kind of stuff more because a flick operating on that level has to work a lot harder.

The film just meanders along without any real impetus or momentum, moving towards the same kind of ending these flicks have in an obligatory, machine-precision manner. It didn’t bug me too much. Despite getting distracted by the main guy’s acting, or lack of acting, he’s endearing enough so that you want to like him, even if he’s a bit clumsy. The other actors, especially Mila Kunis, who was a tremendous surprise, ably support in roles that vary in their usefulness and humour.

Jonah Hill, the creepy obese guy from other Apatow movies, is just as creepy, obese and unfunny as always. I find him really disturbing and anti-funny, and I just wish people would stop casting him in films. I have seen tumours removed from people’s bodies that are funnier and better actors.

Mila Kunis surprised me the most because I had been convinced for years that she was a dead-eyed moron from her work on That 70’s Show. The most disturbing thing about speaking of that show is not the admission that I was wrong about something, since I’m wrong about stuff all the time: it’s that I’m essentially admitting to having watched the show repeatedly. It is truly a shameful thing to admit, I know it. Suffice to say that nothing she did on that show prepared me for how good she can be in one of these roles.

It’s lazy, in a lot of respects, but it also works. It feels like it was cobbled together from days and days worth of footage going nowhere, and it really doesn’t have that much to say about anything. Unless you count Get Over It and Follow Your Dreams as radical, new messages for the masses. I have to admit that the culmination of Peter’s dream, which is a puppet Dracula musical was pretty funny in a completely dorky way. And I did walk out of the cinema with a smile on my face.

But then the smile faded, and I just carried on living my life.

6 ways in which forgetting this film is very likely out of 10

“When life gives you lemons, just say 'Fuck the lemons,' and bail” – Forgetting Sarah Marshall