Aturn for the bitter
FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL
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