Sunday, April 20, 2008

Capsule Review: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Movie: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Director/Studio: Nicholas Stoller / Universal

10 Word Review: Apatow's crew is funny as ever, despite frustratingly half-baked story.

Best Thing About It: The acting crew. Everybody's on their game, nobody's dogging it. Jason Segel carries his first movie, Kristen Bell tries very hard with a character that gets taken out at the knees (more on that in a second), Jonah Hill and Jack McBrayer doing variations on their usual typecastings, and Bill Hader really, really coming to play. There were a couple times where he seemed to be running through the usual Apatowian dialogue, but for the most part he was wonderful. And apparently I have to like Mila Kunis now, because she's lovely and believable and just generally fantastic in a way I've never seen her be.

Worst Thing About It: The story. It's unfair to saddle Forgetting Sarah Marshall with the baggage of Judd Apatow's previous features, considering Apatow neither wrote nor directed this one. And honestly, the charge that Apatow's movies write women poorly only really applies to Knocked Up (Catherine Keener was given a fairly fleshed out character in The 40-Year-Old Virgin , and Superbad is about the two guys almost exclusively -- the girls are supposed to be mysteries to them), so that's been a bit overblown (even by me, I'll admit). That being said, my major problem with the movie that kept nagging at me was the way the female characters were written, specifically Kristen Bell's Sarah Marshall. I give Segel, who wrote the script, credit for writing Sarah as a real character and not just a stock faithless hussy. But he needed to follow through to the end, because what ends up happening is that Sarah gets treated as a real, relatable character to a point, then gets suddenly dropped into a very typical (if innovatively filthy) comeuppance that has the effect of building up our sympathies for her before asking us to cheer her demise. It's like Segel set out to write a movie where all the characters get to be real people with real motivations and problems and feelings but at some point in development someone got spooked that the movie wouldn't have a clearly defined villain and changed the resolution to Sarah's arc. Truthfully, I hope that's what happened. Because otherwise Segel just got lazy.

Best Performance: Everybody's great, as I said above, but I Russell Brand as the oversexed, overly familiar, flowered-shirt-hating British rock star girl-stealer got the biggest laughs, and deservedly so. He's apparently a big deal in England and just as weird in real life, but a performance is a performance.

Oscar Prospects: Ohhhhh, none. Though if someone were to start a write-in campaign for Jason Segel's peen as Best Supporting Actor, they'd be doing the Lord's work.

Grade: B

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this movie yet (had to watch Harold & Kumar first!), but apparently all the real "Sarah Marshalls" are pissed with the ad campaign and are lashing back!