This movie caught me completely by surprise.
I loved it.
The premise of the film is as old as any… boy loses girl. Boy tries to win girl back (sort of), boy meets new girl, new girl and boy fall in love, boy tries one last go at original girl only to realize it’s new girl he really wants. Boy finally grows up and becomes all that he can be to win new girl.
Ok, maybe that’s a little more complicated than the traditional boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back scenario… but that’s what works with this film.
On many levels the film feels like a story you’ve heard before. But it does a tremendous job of changing up its delivery on you.
This is still a fairly recent film, so I don’t want to go into too much spoiler territory here… I just want you to go out and watch this movie for yourself if you haven’t already.
Jason Segel (Marshall from How I Met Your Mother) plays Peter, a sort of “stuck-in-a-rut” TV show music composer. He’s talented, but under utilized creating “tones” for the CSI-like TV show he scores. Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars and Heroes) plays Sarah Marshall. Sarah is Peter’s girlfriend when the film opens and we are given a quick background on who they are via some fun “tabloid TV” montages that Peter is watching. Sarah is the female lead on the very same CSI-like show that Peter scores. She is incredibly famous, and he is essentially a D-lister who’s occasionally seen standing behind her on the red carpet.
Very quickly the movie moves into full gear as Sarah dumps Peter. (This scene is both painful and downright hilarious thanks to the full-frontal nudity of the scene courtesy of Jason Segel. Damn dude.) Sarah has met someone else and she is leaving Peter.
And there you have it. The basic, classic set-up. Boy loses girl. What follows is a fun bit where Peter tries to forget Sarah by being with other women. This section is fairly short, but the point comes across clear. You can’t forget the pain you feel by going out and acting like an ass by trying to tap any piece of ass you can get. Of course, that very adult message is delivered through a series of silly and juvenile set ups. But it’s a good message, and one I didn’t expect to find in this film.
Eventually Peter goes to Hawaii to try and relax and get his mind and heart realigned. It is here that he meets the new girl, That 70’s Show’s Mila Kunis as Rachel Jansen. Now, I was never a big fan of That 70’s Show, and Mila never really turned my eye on that show at all. But here, between the writing of her character who is playful, warm, strong and slightly hurt and vulnerable, she is radiant. I found myself falling for Rachel right from the very first scene she is in. There is a beautiful person in her character. Someone who is real. A female character in a film that’s not just a pretty face, but one who is obviously aware of the pain that life can hand you. And in that knowledge she’s become someone who is nurturing and endearing. A soul that is there for other poor lost souls. And that, most definitely, is Peter.
The big problem for Peter (and for that matter his eventual relationship with Rachel) is that Sarah and her crazy new-age rock-star boyfriend are staying at the same hotel that Peter is staying in and Rachel works at.
Now, like I said, I don’t want to get into too much spoiler’y details. So I’m gonna stop with they synopsis now. Needless to say, a lot of “cross-polination” of relationships ensues. But in every way the film surprises you by not taking the low-road in either its comedy or its messages. The characters here are funny, and make mistakes, but they ultimately treat each other in very grown up ways. This is a “coming of age” type comedy that doesn’t lower its character’s IQ’s into single digits or turn them all into crazy horny teenagers. Their story is believable, and the pain and joys they feel are real. There is forgiveness, and compassion and real pain and regret here.
And puppets. Yeah. It’s grown up but it does involve puppets. Maybe not a huge surprise. Jason Segel also wrote Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I’ve recently read on the internet that he’s been tapped to write the new Muppet Movie for Disney.
I should also mention that there are two supporting characters who are quite funny. Paul Rudd plays the hotel’s surf coach and he’s a totally zoned out stoner in this film. He’s very funny. There is also a newlywed couple at the hotel who are having trouble figuring out how to grow into a healthy sexual relationship with each other. The guy in this couple is Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock and he does an excellent job of playing the repressed bible-raised midwesterner who’s struggling with his new wife’s non-traditional desires in the bedroom.
Yes, I highly recommend this film. There are real characters here who are learning real life-lessons. And refreshingly, it doesn’t seem like any one single person in this film has ALL the answers. They each have their flaws, and their own things to learn. It’s refresingly true in that sense.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is rated R, but that’s primarily for the 30 seconds or so of Jason Segel’s penis that shows on screen.