Today marks a momentous occasion in the history of media journalism, an occurrence sure to adorn every diary, calendar and Facebook event section from north to south and east to west.

Today, of all days, sees the first entry of my TV Movie of the Week feature. And to celebrate such a phenomenon, I have chosen to take a look at the Nichols Stoller-directed, Jason Segel-written, Judd Apatow-produced comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008). Here we go…

From the three names I listed above – Stoller, writer/director of Get Him to the Greek (2010) and The Five-Year Engagement (2012), writer of Yes Man (2008); Segel, whose gone on to write and star in The Muppets (2011) and The Five-Year Engagement, whilst also having leading roles in I Love You, Man (2009), Bad Teacher (2011), This Is 40 (2012) and How I Met Your Mother (2005-2013); and Apatow, involved in varying capacities with Anchorman (2004), The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Superbad (2007), Step Brothers (2008), Pineapple Express (2008), Funny People (2009), Get Him to the Greek, Bridesmaids (2011), The Five-Year Engagement and This Is 40. Phew, deep breath. This provides a fine pedigree of filmmaking talent, that’s before we even mention the rest of the cast – Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Russell Brand, all well supported by the likes of Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd and Bill Hader. Quite the group of people were brought together to make this movie.

…it’s the story of hundreds of romantic comedies…

Forgetting Sarah Marshall 3However, if you look closely, very few of these individuals had much to speak of in the their respective filmographies (with the exception of producer, Apatow), before this picture. It is only since FSM has been released that we are fully aware of Stoller, Segel, Bell, Kunis and Brand as Hollywood regulars. In many ways this film was incredibly brave in trusting relative unknowns in the principal creative roles and credit must be given to the decision-makers for allowing this. It gives the story a fresh feel that can only be accomplished through new faces and ideas. But are the ideas actually all that new?

The narrative revolves around a slightly shy and awkward guy, Peter Bretter (Segel) who gets dumped by his very attractive girlfriend, Bell, as the title character, Sarah Marshall, sending him on a quest to find new love on a trip to Hawaii. Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? (apart from the Hawaii bit, that’s a bit more original) Of course it does, it’s the story of hundreds of romantic comedies that have come before, and the many more that are soon to follow, but what sets FSM apart from the rest is the performances and relatability of the characters.

…perfectly cast and performed…

Segel certainly isn’t your typical leading man, standing at a giant 6’ 4” and not quite up there with the Ryan Gosling’s of the world in terms of looks. While 50% of the intended ‘villains’ of the film – rock star lothario, Aldous Snow, played brilliantly by Russell Brand – are actually the most enjoyable of the lot. Even “the god damn devil” herself (as Peter so aptly puts it in the movie), Sarah Marshall, is given plenty of redemption in a scene where she explains her decision to break up with Peter, with the wonderful line, “It became really hard to take care of you, when you stopped taking care of yourself.” It’s a touching scene where we finally see some vulnerability to the seemingly cold and ruthless Sarah up until that point. And in a genre where the ‘victimised’ character is usually portrayed as something of a pitiable angel, it was another brave decision to have Peter take up a lot of the blame for the unenviable situation that we see him in.

Mila Kunis, in her first major film role as Rachel Jansen, Peter’s love interest, was perfectly cast and performed. Boasting an ideal combination of spontaneity, strong will and joyful exuberance, we can certainly understand Peter’s attraction to her and their chemistry on-screen is there for all to bear witness. Oh yeah, and Kunis has since been voted the sexiest woman on the planet. Probably doesn’t do any harm.

…the humour predominantly revolves around the many awkward situations that come about from bumping into your ex-girlfriend…

Forgetting Sarah Marshall 2So that’s your characters, what about the gags? As is to be expected from an Apatow comedy, the humour predominantly revolves around the many awkward situations that come about from bumping into your ex-girlfriend, while she’s on holiday with her new man. The first scene where Peter and Sarah meet in Hawaii utilises the potential comedy of the situation perfectly, with Segel’s character desperately trying to play it cool and Marshall’s visible horror at the thought that her ex may have followed her to the island. This is contrasted beautifully by the introduction of Russell Brand as Sarah’s latest boyfriend, and his complete nonchalance and disregard towards the awkwardness of the situation is used to great comedic affect.

In fact Brand’s performance deserves a special mention. In the original script, Aldous Snow was written as a pompous, up-his-own-arse author, and it was only after Brand’s audition and subsequent casting in the film, that the character was totally re-worked. The re-writing pretty much stopped at, “give Russell a tangent and let him go with it” as, anyone who is familiar with the Essex-born comedian’s delivery style, is how he has made a name for himself (well, one of the ways that he has). Snow’s character is essentially a selection of interactive, stand-up-esque material – a not-so-exaggerated version of Brand himself. But don’t let that put you off if you’re not a fan. His eloquence is, in my opinion, much better employed in a cinematic medium, as it makes him unlike most characters that we normally see in a similar narrative position, and ultimately allows him to steal the show.

…a perfect date movie…

Overall FSM provides a very refreshing approach to what is the highly saturated and often very poor quality genre of the romantic-comedy. Apatow-style jokes, coupled with heart-warming, relatable and generally well-written characters, makes it enjoyable for both guys and gals, and therefore a perfect date movie. So if you’re entertaining a prospective mate this Saturday night at 10:45, switch over to ITV1 and check out this modern comedy classic. Just make sure they’re ok with full frontal male nudity as, on TWO occasions, we are subjected to the brief but potent visuals of Jason Segel’s growling love sausage. As the writer, star and bearer of the only nude scenes in the film, Segel really does ‘put his all’ into this movie.

Med_4 Stars4 Stars

 

 

About The Author

I am a recent graduate of Ravensbourne, where I attained an Honours Degree in Scriptwriting. During this time, I built up a portfolio of scripted work including a feature film, a sitcom pilot and several short films and web series. Of course there are many more ideas, concepts and half-finished stories floating around the deepest regions of my laptop, but procrastination has thus far deemed them not ready for completion. As well as scripts, I also enjoy writing essays, sports journalism articles and film reviews, while I have also more recently started writing my first book. I feel I must apologise in advance for the inevitable self-indulgent, overly-sarcastic and somewhat pretentious style to my writing, but should you have the patience to see past all of that, I hope you enjoy what you read.

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