DIR: Ben Palmer • WRI: Ben Palmer • PRO: James Biddle, Nira Park, Rachael Prior • DOP: Andrew Dunn • ED: Paul Machliss • DES: Dick Lunn • MUS: Dickon Hinchliffe • CAST: Lake Bell, Simon Pegg, Rory Kinnear
Man Up begins with Nancy (Lake Bell), a thirty four year old cynic on the verge of being set up by a pair of friends at their engagement party. She’s pretty adamant that she’d rather spend the night with a great deal of food and an Anthony Hopkins film. After a great deal of pushing by everyone in her life, who’s sure that all she really needs to turn her life around is a man, Nancy enters the fray and begins the awkward dance of the blind date. Faux-pas is followed by awkward silence, which is followed by more faux pas and then by the inevitable flame-riddled car crash that the ordeal was always going to become. No, not literally.
Dejected and, quite probably hung over, Nancy gets on a train and begins making the journey to her parents’ fortieth anniversary party. She soon attracts the attention of her train-neighbour, the fiercely together Jessica, who strongly tries to push the self-help book Six Billion People and You as the solution to what she sees as Nancy’s problems. When Nancy disembarks from the train, she’s soon approached by the eager Jack, (Simon Pegg), whose blind date has said she’ll signal him by holding a copy of that very book. When Nancy realises the case of mistaken identity, she’s about to correct him until a film reference makes her realise that this could well be the man she’s been waiting for, and decides to go through with the date, pretending to be someone else.
Oh, didn’t I mention that this is a rom-com? My mistake.
Well, if you’ve ever seen a romantic comedy before, you probably won’t need much more of an explanation on what goes down. The formula’s all there, with just a few curve balls thrown in for good measure. We’ve got Nancy’s initial juggling to keep the lie going and trying to adopt someone else’s attributes while being very much herself, the unfortunately timed misunderstanding, the (somewhat sexual-assaulty) rival for Nancy’s affection, the ‘I’m broken too’ moments and the obligatory heartfelt speech. While Man Up seems to have a very tongue-in-cheek approach to some of the tropes of the genre, playing up old chestnuts with a wink and a smile, it also keeps a pretty straight face for more than a few. This seems like an attempt to please everyone who loved How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days (guilty), with just enough gross out moments (and Simon Pegg) to draw in anyone who likes a touch of discomfort with their comedy (also guilty).
Pegg and Bell are on top form, each bringing something likeable and grounded to their characters and their relationship. Scenes walk a fine line between humour and human emotion, with only a few incidents that feel out of place. While Pegg is on top form, it really is Bell’s film and her moments and quips are likely to be remembered well after the film ends. Rory Kinnear’s portrayal of an obsessive suitor begins with endearing humour and very quickly enters some less charming, more disturbing territory, though the film seems content to ignore this for the most part.
It’s got laughs, it’s got romance, it’s got Simon Pegg. Man Up is very much a romantic comedy and a damned good one. It may be somewhat by the book, but it’s a book with rude words and funny pictures in it.
At last, a rom-com for the cynical cinema-goer.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Man Up is released 29th May 2015