Man Up, 2015.
Directed by Ben Palmer.
Starring Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Ophelia Lovibond, Rory Kinnear, Olivia Williams, Sharon Horgan, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Harriet Walter and Ken Stott.
A single woman who’s mistaken for a stranger’s blind date, leads to her finding the perfect boyfriend.
Readers beware: in a change to our regularly schedule programming, this month’s big rom-com isn’t another dull Nicholas Spark adaptation. Instead, it’s a British one, set in amongst some of London’s most fanciful locations and starring Simon Pegg. Wait, where are you going?
If such films such as The Best of Me and The Notebook are what get you out of the house and into darkened cinema, you may be disappointed with Man Up, the new comedy from Inbetweeners director Ben Palmer. Not that there isn’t enough discussions of love, destiny or kindred spirits here, but rather than going “full-schmaltz”, Man Up embraces such sickly tropes and cuddles them, using them as sources of comedic gold whilst still managing to have a bigger heart than many of the aforementioned efforts of recent years.
Man Up is a 21st-century love story in and around London, with singletons turning to revolutionary self-help manuals and Internet dating to try to find true happiness. Nancy (Lake Bell) is one such girl, but one who enjoys the single life much more than the trials of modern dating, but she is soon inadvertently thrust into the arms of Jack (Pegg), who mistakes her for his blind date. Wanting to “get back on the horse”, Nancy doesn’t correct him, and the two are soon embarking on a clumsy, mistake-ridden date.
Scripted by Palmer and Tess Morris, Man Up has all the hallmarks of a “traditional” rom-com, but its keenness in subverting them, turning them on their head to create both comedy gold and surprising warmth. Helped by some energetic direction, Man Up is jovial and warm while maintaining a gooey centre to please to most ardent of romanticists.
But no amount of sexual innuendos, dance sequences or the folly of such films work without chemistry between its leads, and Man Up is happily blessed with two supremely gifted comedy actors who are a joy throughout. Pegg, always a master of comedy gold when given the right material, is at his very best here as the never-say-die, helpless romantic.
Bell, meanwhile, is the film’s star turn, continuing her upward rise towards the top of the comedy pile. After her wonderful turn in her ace but under-seen directorial debut In A World, Bell is in just as irresistible form her, radiating every scene with both kindheartedness and wit with a sprinkling of kooky desperation.
Man Up makes an early claim for not only rom-com of the year but also comedy of the year, period. Sure it thunders through proceedings at break-neck speed and may be to quirky for some wanting some more traditional, but with sparkling wit and two cracking lead performances, Man Up is an inventive joy from start to finish.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★