“Man Up” (2015)
I love a good romantic comedy, one where the two future lovers are witty, fun and full of life. Actually, that’s not true, I do love romantic comedies, but I like more than just your formulaic plots and fortunately “Man Up” is one of those creative films that you just don’t want to end it is so much fun to watch. It takes the genre and turns it on its ear, giving us a movie about two unique characters that you would never guess would end up together.
Nancy (Lake Bell) is a thirty-four-year-old woman who is tired of being let down by the dating scene. We first meet her in a hotel room where she is trying to find the courage to meet another blind date set up by her friends. After several self pep talks and a number of false starts, she gives up to watch “Silence of the Lambs” on the TV and order room service. Her sister calls her and with the help of the room-service staff, she is convinced to go. Unfortunately, her blind date is as boring as she feared and no matter how much small talk they go through, it’s obvious that there aren’t any sparks.
The next day she heads by train to her parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. On the train, she meets a very annoying, twenty-something named Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) who is convinced that everyone should read a best-selling how to find your ultimate mate book – a book she just happens to have in her purse. In order to escape the woman and her advice, Lucy decides to catch a quick cat nap. When she wakes up, the train is at its destination, and the annoying woman has left her book behind. Nancy, with the book in hand, looks desperately for the young woman to return the book. As she reaches the center of the station, she stops to scan the crowd and is approached by Jack (Simon Pegg) who has the exact book in hand. He starts babbling on, not giving her a chance to say anything. It seems Jack believes that Nancy is Jessica, who he is meeting on a blind date. Jack and his blind date were to meet in the center of the station, both holding the self-help books as an indication of who they are. Since there are quite a few sparks between them, Nancy decides just to go with it and act as if she is Jessica. Why not, who could it hurt and it could be fun? What Nancy doesn’t know is that this date of mistaken identity will change her life forever.
What makes this film work so well is that both main characters are deeply flawed people. Nancy, played by the immensely talented and funny Lake Bell, is a woman is full of self-doubt, convinced that she will never find someone that can find her flaws as something to love. Jack is a man who is bitter over his wife having an affair with a friend of his and is now in the final stages of the divorce. Jack has outward appearances of being happy go lucky but underneath is full of pain and hurt. The script, by Tess Morris and under the direction of Ben Palmer, seems to understand the dating world of today, where men and woman are trying to find their mates in the world of Tinder, Facebook and cell phones. Morris has created two real characters that we can understand and while we might not always like them, we can sympathize with them. The dialogue is witty, fast-moving and brilliantly funny, making the film a joy to watch.
Lake Bell is dazzling in the role of Nancy, the woman who is ready to try something new at a moment’s notice although she is always waiting for something to go wrong. Bell gives us a character that is a cynic who still hopes for the best. Bell’s comic timing is perfect, and she wins us over from that first meeting in the hotel room. She would be home in those spitfire roles of the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s. And let me say this, her British accent is one of the best an American has ever attempted, coming off natural and real. Pegg is equal in Bell’s comic timing, and his facial expressions are the perfect capper to some very funny scenes. Pegg brings to life a character that while full of anger, doesn’t let it dominate his performance. The two actors make us want for this crazy romance to work out against all the odds.
“Man Up” joins the ranks of great British romantic comedies, like “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral” showing us Yanks a thing or two on how to do an unconventional film and make it work. This is what I call a “clock” movie, where I am not looking at my watch, seeing how much time is left in the film, but where I look at my watch hoping that there is still more movie to come. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Man Up” is playing exclusively at AMC Colonial 18
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