Aturn for the bit­ter

FOR­GET­TING SARAH MAR­SHALL

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

THE FIFTH Judd Apa­tow pro­duc­tion re­leased here since last Au­gust (af­ter Knocked Up, Su­per­bad, Walk Hard and Drill­bit Tay­lor), Ni­cholas Stoller’s de­but fea­ture injects the ro­man­tic com­edy for­mula with a wel­come bit­ter­ness and healthy cyn­i­cism.

Ja­son Segel, who scripted the movie, plays Peter Bret­ter, a com­poser un­hap­pily em­ployed on bland TV theme mu­sic and im­mersed in writ­ing a rock opera on Drac­ula. He’s madly in love with Sarah Mar­shall (Kris­ten Bell), an ac­tress who stars with William Bald­win in an inane TV cop show. She, too, has loftier am­bi­tions and dreams of a film ca­reer, but her only cin­ema role has been in a tacky hor­ror movie about a mo­bile phone that kills its users.

Af­ter five years to­gether, Sarah tells Peter she’s leav­ing him for an­other man. To em­pha­sise his vul­ner­a­bil­ity, Peter is naked when she tells him. That is in keep­ing with the pen­chant of Apa­tow come­dies for gra­tu­itous nu­dity, al­though Segel in­sists he drew on per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence for the scene.

Ca­sual sex with other part­ners is no sub­sti­tute, Peter re­alises, and ends in tears of re­morse. Tak­ing a hol­i­day in Hawaii, he finds that Sarah just hap­pens to be stay­ing in the same ho­tel with her lover, Al­dous Snow, an over­sexed Bri­tish rocker played in a per­fectly judged par­ody by Rus­sell Brand. We get the mea­sure of Snow’s tal­ent in the ris­i­bly pre­ten­tious mu­sic video for his phoney peace-and-love sin­gle, We Gotta Do Some­thing, and again when he sings, “I long to be/ Is it wrong to be/ Inside you.”

Sex­ual ref­er­ences abound in the film, al­though it’s most of­fen­sive in its many rep­e­ti­tions of the cliched ex­cla­ma­tion, “Awe­some!”

The sup­port­ing roles of­fer en­ter­tain­ing turns for Apa­tow reg­u­lars Paul Rudd as a spaced-out surfer, Jack McBrayer as a sex­u­ally in­hib­ited honey­mooner, and Jonah Hill as a waiter and as­pi­rant song­writer.

Hope springs eter­nal in Apa­tow’s sweet-and-sour con­fec­tions, es­pe­cially when the hero is an or­di­nary sad sack of a guy, and Mila Ku­nis sparkles as the ra­di­ant ho­tel re­cep­tion­ist who ini­tially takes pity on Peter. An alum­nus of Apa­tow’s TV se­ries Freaks and Geeks and Un­de­clared, Segel’s en­gag­ingly un­der­stated per­for­mance prompts the sym­pa­thy of the viewer – al­though we have sec­ond thoughts when he fi­nally gets to stage his kitschy Drac­ula mu­si­cal,

Di­rected by Ni­cholas Stoller. Star­ring Ja­son Segel, Kris­ten Bell, Rus­sell Brand, Mila Ku­nas

Su­per bed: Ja­son Segel and Kris­ten Bell

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