man up – to fulfill your responsibilities as a man, despite your insecurities and constant ability to place yourself in embarrassing and un-manly scenarios.
Thanks to Dean at Studiocanal I took the opportunity to attend the preview of Man Up on Wednesday at Hoyts, Melbourne Central. This Rom-Com is a UK/French production starring Britisher Simon Pegg and American Lake Bell, although she does very well maintaining a British accent throughout. (Apparently, this was helped by her staying in character even when not filming.)
The blurb sets the scene:
Nancy (Lake Bell), is done with dating. 10 times bitten, 100 times shy, she’s exhausted by the circus. So when Jack (Simon Pegg) blindly mistakes her for his date, no one is more surprised than her when she does the unthinkable and just goes with it. It’s going to take a night of pretending to be someone else for Nancy to finally Man Up and be her painfully honest, awesomely unconventional self… but will Jack also Man Up, and be able to get over her duplicity? Best just to let the evening unfold, roll with the consequences, and see if one crazy, unpredictable, complicated night can bring these two messy souls together.
From the outset, I knew my demographics (60-somethings) not the target audience for this movie and was glad my daughter Mary Jane (20s) came along because the generation gap gave us different perspectives and made for an excellent discussion afterwards.
Regarding the scene where Nancy has a rant about raunchy sex (entirely mythical) between her and Jack to get back at Jack’s vindictive ex-wife Hilary (Olivia Williams) Mary Jane said, ‘I’m glad you didn’t know half of what she was talking about!’
However, we mainly did laugh at the same things, and this is a whimsical feel good film. It’s not super original as far as the genre goes, but there are some subtle touches and the lead roles are well-chosen. Even Nancy’s parents Bert (Ken Stott of Rebus fame) and Fran (Dame Harriet Walter of Sense & Sensibility and Atonement) are well cast.
It’s a modern film – blind dates are not new, but the intrusion of technology is there although the line about Nancy not being on Facebook and yet she was supposed to be a journalist I found a little unbelievable, considering everyone seems to have an online profile these days. However, she was meant to be unconventional.
Nancy’s reaction when she runs into an old school friend Sean (Rory Kinnear) who honestly is a creepy, crazed stalker was also bizarre for a 34-year-old professional woman jaded but still experienced with men. (Even with the suspension of disbelief.)
I found Sean more disturbing than funny, and my daughter agreed. I don’t know whether the part is as the writer Tess Morris envisaged. Shooting scripts and screenplays can differ widely, but considering the enormous amount of violence against women – cyber and actual – a creepy stalker who demands a ‘blowjob’ as the first trade off to keep Nancy’s real identity secret made both MaryJane and I squirm. There are several ways that subplot could have been written differently and still been funny.
The film happens all in one night, and it works well even if the amount of shots and bottles of alcohol consumed overdone. It’s difficult to believe they could remain standing; think rationally and speak naturally, but that and a slightly weird ending is to appeal to the followers of Hollywood Rom-Coms according to my daughter.
Those particular points aside, this is a light, entertaining comedy that has some seriously funny lines and scenes carried off superbly by Simon Pegg and Lake Bell and well-chosen supporting cast.
There is a poignant scene with a beautiful expression of advice to those who have lost love, lost self-esteem, seek love and need something to go right but don’t know if it ever will. Nancy tells Jack he’s an emotional jigsaw at the moment, in pieces and he just needs to find the blue bits.
I loved this metaphor; it reminds me of a fantastic book Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart. This book helped me through grief when I lost the love of my life. Even in comedy there can be a serious message. Nancy’s parents still in love after 40 years of marriage – looked at from one perspective Nancy can think she’s a failure or she can see that a long lasting, loving relationship is achievable.
This fast-paced film matches Jack and Nancy’s roller-coaster evening of dropping barriers and getting to know each other while living in the moment. The soundtrack great too, ensuring you stay in the mood and leave the cinema upbeat and happy.
Romantic Comedies may not be your favourite genre, but Man Up is different enough from some of the usual offerings to make it an entertaining night at the movies. And if you go intergenerational there’s great conversation over coffee!