Friday, April 25, 2008

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" - movie review (spoilers)

This is not the kind of movie that generally interests me, but like with "Dodgeball", the trailer somehow caught my attention enough to make me want to see the movie.

Generally, I thought the film was very good, with lots of very funny parts. The film is raunchier and much more sex-filled than the trailer might lead you to believe, though I suppose if you're familiar with other films in the genre, that might not come as too much of a surprise.

Peter Bretter is devasted when longtime love Sarah Marshall unceremoniously breaks up with him. Nursing his broken heart proves difficult because he sees her wherever he goes since she is the female lead in the "CSI"-like television show for which he composes the music, and she is a high-profile star, so she's a paparrazi darling. He decides to get away from it all and takes a trip to Hawaii - where he finds that he has chosen the exact hotel where Sarah is vacationing with new boyfriend Aldous Snow, bad-boy lead singer of a hot rock band. Fate continues to throw the two together, but Peter ends up making friends with Rachel, one of the employees at the hotel who takes a liking to him. Meanwhile, Sarah is finding out that her relationship with Snow isn't all she thought, and she's going through "grass is always greener" syndrome. The awkward foursome must work out how all the various relationships will play out.

Jason Segel is quite good as Peter, playing the different beats of depression over Sarah and getting back on his feet. One of the reasons that the film is rated "R" is for full frontal male nudity - there are almost half a dozen shots of Segel au naturel. One supposes that Segel didn't have a problem with that when he accepted the role since he also wrote the screenplay for the film. The full frontal shots work for shock value, but it's also not overly used, and the timing of the shots works really well in eliciting laughter every time.

Kristen Bell is terrific as the starlet who turns out to be more than just a pretty face and body. She has two particularly nice scenes, both with Segel. In one, Sarah has just found out that her show has been cancelled, and when Peter pushes for her real feelings, she reveals her insecurity at finding another role or becoming a has-been. In the other scene, she reveals that her break-up with Peter wasn't as unexpected as we were earlier led to believe, and you see her heartbreak when she explains to a clueless Peter that she had tried desperately to keep their relationship afloat without much help from him.

Mila Kunis as Rachel was the biggest surprise for me. I loved her as the very pretty and very polite and demure and nice woman we see at first who turns into a foul-mouthed fiery and independent sexpot as she gets to know Peter better. Imagine my surprise when I realized that she also voices Meg Griffin, the daughter in "Family Guy". Meg only wishes she looked like Mila!

Russell Brand was hilarious as Aldous Snow, and he walks a fine line between being a great comic character and a caricature of the famous rock-star type.

I particularly loved the scene where Peter, Rachel, Sarah and Snow ended up having dinner together, and Rachel's oneupmanship of Sarah was just hysterical.

At the hotel, Peter meets a newlywed couple, and he ends up talking quite a bit to the husband, who is having trouble sexually satisfying his nubile bride, who wants to be much more experimental than he's comfortable with. There's a hilarious scene later in the film where Snow ends up giving the husband tips, and the two of them are humping the giant-sized chess pieces used in an outdoor chess set.

There are a lot of good supporting players in the cast, and Steve Landesberg has a great cameo as a foul-mouthed pediatrician.

Since a film's trailer is cut way before the film itself is finished, it can often happen that a scene in the trailer doesn't make it to the finished film, but it was interesting to note that two major scenes from the trailer (the waiter emphasizing that Peter was by himself so they could take away everything else from the table since he was all alone, and the line where Peter is asking Sarah what kind of clothes she wants him to be wearing when she breaks up with him) were missing from the film itself.

This film is not for the faint of heart - there's quite a bit of swearing in this film, and there's not just graphic sexual discussion but also numerous very graphic simulated sex scenes. But if you can make it through that, there's a very good funny and sweet story that goes along with it. The on-screen chemistry between the four leads is just terrific.

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