Very comic strip­ping

Judd ‘Knocked Up’ Apa­tow has done it again with a bright, taste-free rom-com that de­liv­ers loads of laughs

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS - BY GER­ALD AARON

FOR­GET­TING SARAH MAR­SHALL (

JA­SON Segel ap­pears full-frontally naked on screen and only has him­self to blame. He co-wrote this de­fi­antly rib­ald, im­mensely en­ter­tain­ing com­edy, with pro­ducer Judd Apa­tow, the man be­hind last year’s hits The 40 Year Old Vir­gin, Knocked Up and Su­per­bad.

The sim­ple, sat­is­fy­ing premise finds strug­gling mu­si­cian Peter (Segel) dumped by long-time girl­friend, TV crime se­ries star Sarah (Kris­ten Bell). Ded­i­cated wom­an­is­ing fails to as­suage his grief and so Peter heads to Hawaii to re­assem­ble his bro­ken heart, only to run into Sarah and her new Bri­tish rocker boyfriend Al­dous (Rus­sell Brand).

Lon­don-born Ni­cholas Stoller’s ad­mirable di­rec­to­rial de­but makes the most of the mostly taste­less jokes, sharp, cru­elly ac­cu­rate satire (the open­ing and clos­ing par­o­dies of Amer­i­can television crime shows are just off-cen­tre enough to be gen­uine) and comic sit­u­a­tions. He con­sis­tently raises laughs by en­sur­ing his play­ers are un­re­strained but with­out al­low­ing them to blud­geon the ma­te­rial to death. Se­gal is splen­did, de­liv­er­ing one-lin­ers with en­gag­ing skill. Bell makes a fine foil, and Brand makes up for his egre­gious turn in St Trinian’s with a cal­lously ex­act send-up of egoand-hor­mone-driven rock stars. Re­sult — a bright, taste­less comic treat.

DE­CEP­TION

NEW YORK au­di­tor Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGre­gor) is the ar­che­typal neb­bish. He wears glasses, his hair is parted 1920s-fash­ion, he likes ac­coun­tancy be­cause “the or­der of it ap­peals to me — the sym­me­try”. Need­less to say, his suc­cess with the ladies is min­i­mal. Along comes suc­cess­ful lawyer Wy­att Bose (Hugh Jack­man) who in­tro­duces McQuarry to the unique plea­sures of a high-class sex club, a world of “in­ti­macy with­out in­tri­cacy”. McQuarry be­lieves he has fi­nally made it, un­til a tor­rid li­ai­son with mys­te­ri­ous “Jen­nifer” (Michelle Wil­liams) en­snares him in a night­mare of treach­ery, crime and mur­der.

First-time fea­ture di­rec­tor Mar­cel Lan­geneg­ger is quoted as say­ing Mark Bom­back’s in­ge­nious screen­play “re­minded me of Hitch­cock”. Hitch­cock­ian el­e­ments are cer­tainly there — an in­no­cent hero pro­pelled into a dan­ger­ous mi­lieu, du­plic­i­tous char­ac­ters and a nar­ra­tive line that sus­pends dis­be­lief. Jack­man is suavity it­self when he needs to be, Wil­liams makes her char­ac­ter in­ter­est­ing and McGre­gor is a suit­able vic­tim/hero (de­spite an un­even Amer­i­can ac­cent). As smooth, cun­ning and com­pelling thrillers go, this one goes over very nicely.

STOP-LOSS (

CO-WRITER/DI­REC­TOR Kim­ber­ley Peirce’s drama fol­lows dec­o­rated US sergeant Bran­don King’s (Ryan Phillippe) re­turn to small-town Texas home af­ter com­bat ser­vice in Iraq. King looks for­ward to re­turn­ing to civil­ian life, only to be trapped by the US Army’s stop-loss pol­icy which al­lows the US gov­ern­ment to con­tinue to call sol­diers back for fur­ther tours of duty.

King jus­ti­fi­ably re­acts ad­versely against re­call, bring­ing him into con­flict with his author­ity-ac­cept­ing friend, Steve (Chan­ning Ta­tum).

Pierce, in her first film since Boys Don’t Cry, again cre­ates thought-pro­vok­ing drama, be­liev­able char­ac­ters and makes pow­er­ful points about the con­flict be­tween self and duty.

Her stag­ing of war­fare in Iraq and her por­trait of small-town Texas are gritty and con­vinc­ing, as are the lead­ing per­for­mances, no­tably Philippe, Ta­tum and Joseph Gor­don-Le­vitt as a re­turn­ing sol­dier ul­ti­mately de­stroyed by his com­bat ex­pe­ri­ence.

THE EYE

YET AN­OTHER Amer­i­can re­make of a suc­cess­ful Ja­panese shocker, this one a some­what su­pe­rior (un­til the nar­ra­tive starts wob­bling) hor­ror­flick. Blind con­cert vi­o­lin­ist Syd­ney Wells (Jes­sica Alba) un­der­goes suc­cess­ful corneal trans­plants which re­store her sight. Un­for­tu­nately, they also al­low her to see dead peo­ple fil­tered through the hor­rific ex­pe­ri­ences of her donor. The sub­ject is hardly new, of course — the clas­sic The Hands of Or­lac/Mad Love used the same theme back in 1935 — but direc­tors David Moreau and Xavier Palud, well served by Jef­frey Jur’s at­mo­spheric cin­e­matog­ra­phy, de­liver the req­ui­site chills and thrills.

THREE AND OUT (

THE UN­LIKELY story of a Lon­don Tube train driver who seeks a wouldbe sui­cide to throw him­self un­der his train so that he can claim a bonus from his em­ploy­ers seems a pe­cu­liar sub­ject even for a black com­edy. And so it turns out to be. Di­rec­tor Jonathan Ger­sh­field does his best, ex­tract­ing what com­edy he can, but the screen­play de­feats him. Macken­zie Crook in the lead role fails to makes his es­sen­tially un­sym­pa­thetic char­ac­ter like­able.

Kris­ten Bell and Rus­sell Brand share an in­ti­mate mo­ment in the quite mem­o­rable For­get­ting Sarah Mar­shall

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