Review: Man Up

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.

Ronan Daly


15A (See IFCO for details)

87 minutes
Man Up is released 29th May 2015

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The Imitation Game

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DIR: Morten Tyldum WRI: Graham Moore PRO: Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwarzman DOP: Óscar Faura ED: William Goldenberg DES: Maria Djurkovic MUS: Alexandre Desplat CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Charles Dance

 

A handsomely mounted, solidly entertaining biopic, The Imitation Game, gives a partially fictionalised account of the life of English mathematician and logician Alan Turing, who helped crack the Enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II, and later died by his own hand after being forced to undergo chemical castration to “cure” his homosexuality.

 

While Michael Apted’s Enigma (2001) attempted the awkward task of making action heroes and romantic leads of Bletchley boffins, The Imitation Game takes a more level-headed approach to the subject.  Morten Tyldum’s assured direction offers a carefully calibrated mixture of suspense and cosiness (echoed in Alexandre Desplat’s tense but oddly quaint score), sculpting the film around Benedict Cumberbatch’s central performance as Turing.  Unlike his turn as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate (2013), which never rose above meticulous impersonation, Cumberbatch makes Turing a rounded creation, balancing intellectual assurance and social discomfort, even when saddled with some rather on-the-nose dialogue.  Mark Strong makes an impression as a shady MI6 agent, but Cumberbatch’s real foil here is Keira Knightley, playing Turing’s fellow cryptanalyst, and one-time fiancée, Joan Clarke.  Knightley has a tremendously appealing presence, and she gives Clarke an effervescence that tempers the script’s tendency to reduce her to a mere emblem of the condition of being a woman in a “man’s world”.

 

The film was written by an American, Graham Moore, and it shows.  Moore has a firm grasp of scriptwriting formulae, but is on less sure footing conjuring a sense of place and time.  The characters’ eagerness to disclose their emotions to one another, usually through aphorism, feels neither particularly British nor particularly of the period, and a handful of nagging anachronisms and Americanisms (in particular, the persistent use of the word “smart” to mean intelligent, as distinct from quick-witted) would surely have snagged on the finely tuned sensitivities of Bletchley Park’s Oxbridge-schooled code-breakers.  More disconcerting than these minor quibbles is the script’s suggestion that Turing’s code-breaking machine was developed to fill the void left by a deceased childhood beloved.  It’s not only commendable, but essential, that Turing’s sexuality be part of this narrative, but that doesn’t imply that it should be made to “account” for his particular genius – a move that risks trivialising his achievement and romanticising his persecution.  Reducing the invention of the digital computer to a compensation for love lost makes for an affecting back-story, but rather undercuts the magnitude of Turing’s contribution to our age.

 

Still, while one doesn’t have to be Alan Turing to find the script’s plays on pattern and code a little obvious, The Imitation Game remains engrossing for its full two-hour running time.  Sturdy craftsmanship, strong performances, and a perennially fascinating subject make it one of the more appealing pieces of awards-bait to emerge thus far this season.

 

David Turpin

 

12A (See IFCO for details)

114 minutes

The Imitation Game is released 14th November 2014

The Imitation Game – Official Website

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5CjKEFb-sM

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Cinema Review: Broken

DIR: Rufus NorrisWRI: Mark O’Rowe • PRO: Tally Garner, Bill Kenwright, Dixie Linder, Nick Marston   DOP: Rob Hardy   ED: Victoria Boydell  DES: Kave Quinn Cast: Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Rory Kinnear

 

Family drama piece Broken once again teams Irish screenwriter Mark O’ Rowe up with Cillian Murphy, who previously worked together on Intermission and Perrier’s Bounty. Although some of the humour of these past films is seen in Broken, Mark O’ Rowe’s talents as a drama screenwriter are really brought to the fore through this excellently told heart breaking story.

Broken is the story of a young girl, Skunk, who lives with her father and brother in a North London suburb. Young Skunk’s life changes after she witnesses a violent altercation in the safety of her residential street. This incident is the catalyst in the interlinking stories of three families who are dramatically affected by the repercussions of the event. We are weaved through their stories with O’ Rowe’s beautifully and wittily written script. He allows our sympathies to fall on each and every person in the film, who have all been affected by the different paths their lives have taken.

The performances of Murphy as Skunk’s teacher and her au pair’s boyfriend, Tim Roth as her father and Rory Kinnear as a volatile single father are subtle, real and sympathetic. However, it is the stand out performance of the young Skunk (Eloise Laurence) that grabs us by the heart strings and pulls us in. She gives a natural performance which we rarely see at such a young age and this holds the whole film together; which is impressive considering the other excellent performances seen from her more experienced colleagues.

Broken, which had its Irish premiere on the first night of the recent JDIFF festival, set a very high standard for the excellent run of films shown this year. Overall, the cast, including the other young actors, come together to deliver a thought-provoking and memorable film; where every person in it is in some way broken.

Ailbhe O’ Reilly

15A (see IFCO website for details)

90mins
Broken is released on 8th March 2013

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