Saturday, April 19, 2008

REVIEW: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" arrives under the banner of the Judd Apatow Takeover of Hollywood, and runs in roughly the standard Apatow "house style" (short version: Male-centric romantic-comedy with scatology increased to the proportionate dimensions of the emotional angst) but owes more credit to it's writer/star Jason Stegel, who hear quite literally redefines the concept of an actor "baring his soul" to the camera. Not only does he now-famously appear onscreen fully nude, he turns in an achingly real and affecting performance - throwing himself before the audience unguarded and unafraid. He's a star.

He casts himself in the evidently semi-autobiographical role of Peter Bretter, a 30-something slacker musician earning a tidy-enough living composing the cheezy music for a CSI-style TV show who's beautiful rising-star lead actress Sarah Marshall (Kristin Bell) he's dating as the film opens... with their breakup. Or, rather, her unceremonious dumping of him. Encouraged by his best bud (Bill Hader) to soothe himself with one night stands but finding them insufficient, he tries for Plan B: A Hawaiin vacation to a cozy resort... which he quickly discovers is ALSO where Sarah has shacked-up with her new squeeze, swarthy British pop singer Aldous Snow (Russel Brand.) On the bright side, he develops an instant rapport with sexy resort employee Rachel (Mila Kunis.)

You can probably plot the movie out on your own from there - there's nothing terribly surprising in the broad strokes, as the whole point of this new strain of y-chromosome rom-coms is to go through the standard motions from the guy's perspective. The surprises are in the details, mainly in Stegel's refusal to cast anyone as a straight-on villain: Even the seemingly built-to-hate Snow winds up perversely endearing in his oblivious self-satisfaction. And while Sarah is eventually a decidedly unlikable figure, she's also essentially human.

Getting into any more of it would only be possible by giving away the jokes, including a climax that comes about as far out of left field as one can get in a romantic comedy and still be on tera-firmer. But you should absolutely check it out especially if you liked "Knocked Up" or "Forty Year-Old Virgin."

FINAL RATING: 8/10