Dear old Simon Pegg has taken a little break from the higher-notoriety films to take the joint-lead role in a new British Romantic Comedy. This genre has been a bit lacking in ideas lately, but “Man Up” genuinely deserves a lot of credit.
Lake Bell plays Nancy, a woman in her mid thirties who has grown cynical from previous failed relationships, and is struggling to make meaningful social interactions happen despite the best efforts of her friends. On her way to giving a speech at her parent’s 40th Wedding Anniversary, she is mistakenly picked up by Jack (Simon Pegg) as being his blind date for the day. Even though she knows she has to reach the party in time, Nancy decides to go along with the idea as she begins to see they actually have quite a lot in common. The movie follows their day together and how ultimately, their true identities draw them together.
Taking a step away from the over-used recipe for a Rom Com, this focusses on two people who have been burned by previous relations instead of “looking for their true love”. Nancy is very observant of flaws, while Jack very enthusiastic but is certainly holding some issues out of plain sight. It makes their characters feel more believable, you don’t need to stretch your imagination to see their conversations actually happening in real life. They are initially awkward as they start scoping each other out, but grow in depth as the day goes along. Pegg and Bell work extremely well with each other too, with very good timing and bouncing off of each other’s remarks in again, a believable manner.
Another element that knocks this above the fray of the genre tropes is that is is funny. I mean, properly funny. There’s a little of the rolling wit that you find in Pegg / Frost films, but honestly the writer has done a great job in stamping the film with a unique style of humour. It is raunchy, but not to a point of just being for shocks. Each character has a defined level of comedy to work off of, and it all ends up feeling very natural.I got a good level of laughs from this, and almost the entire time just appreciating the set ups and punchlines.
The drama and romance aspect plays a large role as well, and is treated with a level of reality and connectability to the audience. The way that they slowly fall for each other, and the way, they are driven apart, don’t feel all that forced at all. You just get the introduction of the mistaken blind date, and from there it keeps things grounded. An din a moment that made me truly appreciate the film, they way they are broken apart isn’t forced by bad communication – instead it is from their messy backgrounds being dragged to the surface and thrown into the light for both to see. It creates conflict that isn’t just a mechanic to lead into the finale. Big props for that choice.
In fact, it is a bit difficult to find problems with the film on a whole. I guess the very ending is very build up in scale and scope, but it works with this by mixing in some laughs too. I suppose there are some sequences that more seasoned Romantic Comedy viewers will pick up on immediately, and predict the movie’s steps with ease. And the music choice is a bit mixed, since some songs have been used already so many times in cinema that hearing them here made me kind of go “Really???” But don’t worry, cheesy montages are kept to a thankful minimum.
I am really surprised with “Man Up”, the cover makes it feel like it will be another run-of-the-mill story, but it has a lot more depth and warmth on offer that helps it rise above the mundane. It has a great cast, some well-handled direction, and a script that was made to suit the actors and plot perfectly. I don’t find myself saying this often about Rom Coms but…. this was really good! I think couples and singles alike will have a lot of fun watching it, irrelevant of if you are a fan of the genre or just want a fun night in. Hopefully this will pick up a bit of traction, because I think it deserves it.
Thanks for reading!