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.
Nancy (Lake Bell) and Jack (Simon Pegg) meet under the clock at Waterloo station by accident. Over the next thirty six hours lies are told, truths uncovered and a rom-com unfolds of genuine warmth and honesty.
Romantic comedies exist inside a bubble. Middle England, middle upper class and insulated by a lack of reality. Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant single-handedly defined the genre a while back. Pithy one liners delivered by characters with no means of income. Yet capable of living in parts of London beyond the reach of mere mortals. These amongst other things are what the romantic comedy has come to mean. What has failed to materialise until now is anything new or exciting. Something ‘Man Up’ proves more than a remedy for, due in no small measure to director Ben Palmer and screenwriter Tess Morris.
You see this film is unique amongst romantic comedies for being both painfully honest and surprisingly funny. With a good ear and turn of phrase Morris has fashioned something which pays homage, whilst simultaneously breaking new ground. That she has Simon Pegg and Lake Bell on board just makes things easier.
With a natural chemistry in evidence from the off, what could have been another mediocre rom-com is elevated by charisma and charm in spades. Pegg takes an instinctive step back, allowing his naturally comedic colleague and master of the estuary accent centre stage. After her debut feature In a World…, what Man Up does then is bear witness to a star in ascendance. Metering out some fairly adult dialogue, Bell clearly relishes an overtly powerful female role who pulls no punches. While Morris rarely sacrifices character over dialogue in a genre potentially riddled with pitfalls.
Ably supported by Ken Stott amongst others, Ben Palmer has been sure to cast solid actors for minor roles, giving the piece an unexpected sense of reality. Where Man Up falls down however is in the casting of Rory Kinnear. A talented actor giving a good performance which just belongs elsewhere. Playing broad ‘Carry On’ style comedy with no evident benefit, tends to hinder rather than help our eponymous leads throughout. If anything Kinnear is the only one who drifts close to caricature with his creepy ex routine.
Elsewhere things are almost note perfect. What Palmer has created with his follow-up to The Inbetweeners movie is a thoughtful rom-com. Cringingly up front both carnally and emotionally, mixing moments of head and heart with care and attention. In Morris I believe we have discovered a truly unique voice. What she brings to the table is an unflinching approach to dialogue and character. Crafting people of depth who sound real. Their humour is unashamedly base but no less appealing for it. She pays careful homage to those who have come before without losing her voice along the way. With those inherent credentials, I for one would be interested to see what Miss Morris could do outside of these perimeters. For the moment however Man Up will remain her calling card which is no bad thing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★