Forgetting Sarah Marshall ***1/2
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
One Liner Review:
A very funny and clever movie about a breakup, this movie has tons of energy and characters, and really holds nothing beck when it comes to comedy.
This is a pretty fantastic romantic comedy about a most unusual breakup ever. In fact, it’s not so much the breakup that’s unusual as it is the time right afterwards where Peter (Jason Segel,) finds himself on vacation at the same resort as his ex-girlfriend and her new man. The movie stays on this resort in Hawaii for nearly its entire duration, which ends up giving the film a very unique vacation feel. But it’s the comedy that is truly gold here, going hard at its R rating for sexual content and mining every joke and situation to get the most out of it all. This one is smart and different and a whole lot of fun.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a great comedy. It’s a romantic comedy, which generally tends to be the genre filled with cliches more than any other, and yet this movie manages to stay creative and original. It’s a breakup movie, and also a new relationship movie, only unlike most films that would keep those two storylines separate, this one mushes them together in way that is seemless and smooth.
That doesn’t mean that everything is literally happening at the same time… that the guy (Peter, played by Jason Seagal,) is being dumped by Sarah (Kirsten Bell,) and then meets Rachel, (played by Mila Kunis,) right afterwards. Or even worse, meets her before the breakup. But instead, what happens here is Peter is dumped at the start of the movie, and meets Rachel in the middle, only Sarah is still there. At all times. You see, this is a vacation movie where Peter goes somewhere to get away from Sarah, and Sarah is right there on the same vacation, the entire time.
That vacation setting is Hawaii. In fact, one of the main reasons this movie feels so special and unique is because it keeps the characters on vacation, living in suites, going out to restaurants, and socializing with the locals who work at the hotel, for nearly the entire movie. Not many films feature a hotel as the main setting (only Barton Fink comes to mind, and that one is a very very different kind of hotel.) Here, the hotel and location really feel like paradise. And we do vacation things with Peter, such as go to a Luau and take surfing lessons (from Paul Rudd’s instructor.)
But setting and the different activities the character does can only get you so far. It all starts with the story. In fact, a movie lives and does by its story, (the only other thing besides story, that can keep a movie afloat is good comedy, and this movie has both.) The story here is perfect. Peter is broken up with by Sarah at the very start of the film. In fact, we wake up in the morning with Peter, watch his daily morning routines (like fillings gigantic bowl with cereal and sitting on the couch eating it while watching TV,) and learn who Sarah is through a quick Access Hollywood story on TV.
Now this movie doesn’t just tell us that Sarah is on hit TV show, but actually gives us clips of that show sprinkler throughout the movie. It fully creates the show, including her partner played by Billy Baldwin, and his constant sexualized puns. And that’s the thing… this movie goes the extra mile every chance it can get. It doesn’t just tell us Peter is writing a play with puppets about Dracula, but has him sing a song from it early on, and then has him actually perform the show at a theater later. There’s the well-known expression, “show don’t tell.” Well, this movie really takes that expression to heart, refusing to cut corners, or take short cuts at any time.
Getting back to the storyline, Sarah shows up at the apartment and dumps Peter, who is wearing nothing but a towel when she arrives. He drops the towel to give us some hilarious full-frontal male nudity, and continues to have the conversation with her while staying naked. At one point, he even hugs her while naked, and her uncomfortable reaction is hilarious, (granted it doesn’t fully make sense if you think about it too hard… she’s been in a relationship with him for a long time so shouldn’t really be that uncomfortable here, but for the purposes of comedy, her reaction works.)
Peter now starts talking to his best friend (and also second cousin,) Brian, played by Bill Hader. This movie gets a lot out of Hader, being the straight men to Peter’s nut job. The two of them go out to pick up chicks and Brian is the wing man. Only instead of helping Peter, he makes jokes about the place they’re at and tells Peter to “pump the brakes,” when he’s flirting with girls (in whet has to take the trophy for the most blunt flirting ever.) And then this movie shows Peter having sex with lots of different women, each encounter funny in its own way. Again, this is an example of the movie showing us instead of telling us, mining every opportunity for comedy it can find. Another example comes when the movie shows us Peter at work, playing background music over Sarah’s crime investigation show.
Everything about this movie makes sense and is explained. It’s not a coincidence, for example, that Sarah is at the same resort in Hawaii where Peteris staying. Before going there, Peter tells Brian that Sarah mentioned this place, and Brian tries to stop Peter from going there. Only he doesn’t succeed, and Peter ends up getting a great suite, bailed out by the hotel clerk behind the desk, Rachel. She gives him the top of the line Kapua Suite that is usually reserved for celebrities. And soon, she and Peter start hanging out. It’s a good thing too, because Sarah is here on vacation with her new boyfriend, Aldous Snow, (played by Russell Brand,) which only makes things that much more awkward.
This movie manages to explore it all. It explores Peter as the single guy before he starts to date Rachel, sitting alone at a table in the restaurant. It explores Jonah Hill as the creepy waiter who has multiple scenes here and is obsessed with Aldous Snow. It explores the other employees of the hotel, not just Rachel, but also the bartender and chef, who both befriend Peter and end up doing things with him outside of their work. It explores other guests at the hotel, such as Darold, played by 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer, and the problem he’s dealing with. And it definitely takes its time with Peter’s relationship with Rachel, not moving at a pace that Peter quite understands.
Aside from its great, fully fleshed out story though, this one also nails the comedy, going all in on the R rating. That rating is all for sexual content and sexual jokes, such as what happens when Sarah tries to come back to Peter. And nearly all of it works. This movie was written by Jason Segel, and produced by Judd Apatow in the same way that Apatow gave Seth Rogen the opportunity to write and star in a movie (Knocked Up,) and Amy Schumer as well, (Trainwreck.) Segel definitely makes the most of the opportunity, knowing that this is his chance. There is so much going on here and so much to like that when not every joke or character works (Jack McBrayer and Paul Rudd are a little over the top,) we barely notice it. From its clever, fully fleshed-out story to the go for broke comedy, this is a pretty fantastic film.