You’ve gotta hand it to a guy who’s willing to bare it all (um . quite literally) on the big screen in, like, the first five minutes of a movie. This move can, after all, either make or break a film (is America really ready for full-frontal male nudity?). However, if the all-out laughter of the packed college-aged audience enjoying last week’s Associated Students Inc.-sponsored sneak peak of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is any indication, it definitely worked. Big time.
Bravo to you, Jason Segel, bravo to you.
And the film itself is just as good as the film’s brilliant marketing scheme (love those hate-filled billboards!).
As the film begins, we’re introduced to Peter Bretter (Segel), the loveable semi-loser of this “ultimate romantic disaster movie,” living the bachelor lifestyle while waiting for his TV-star girlfriend to return from an out-of-town shoot. Their apartment is littered with mementos of their five-and-a-half year relationship: coffee mugs, a naughty-or-nice Christmas calendar and other knickknacks, all adorned with the lovers’ smiling faces. It’s obvious the guy loves the girl.
And then we’re actually introduced to Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), back just in time to deliver that prophetic “Peter, there’s something I have to tell you” line. Then, in a rather ballsy move, towel-clad Peter drops the garment, refusing to put some clothes on because he thinks, somehow, it will only finalize the break up.
But it is over, and Peter is understandably depressed.
He attempts to find solace post-break up by watching “Project Runway” episodes and even solicits advice from a pediatrician (why is anyone’s guess), who tells him to “keep fucking – fuck everything that moves.” He takes this advice to heart, ending in some rather awkward and disappointing one-night stands, but it’s a no-go – he still feels (understandably) like his heart has been broken into a million pieces.
As composer for “Crime Scene,” the popular TV series starring Sarah, Peter has the added bonus of seeing Sarah’s face on the big screen of his music room/office. Yeah, not the easiest way to get over the ex he now wishes was dead.
So Peter decides to go on vacation to Hawaii, “the place, for people who can’t live in the world, to escape,” as Brian Bretter (Bill Hader), Peter’s straight-talking stepbrother so eloquently explains.
This would be great, except in a sick a turn of fate, Sarah and her new boyfriend (Aldous Snow, a British, pelvic-thrusting rock star played by Russell Brand) also happens to be staying at the same hotel as Peter. (Though to be fair, Peter chose Hawaii as his vacation destination because Sarah always talked about it, so it’s hard to feel completely sorry for the guy. But then again, that’s what slapstick comedy is all about, right?)
As expected, the rest of the film follows Peter as he tries to get over Sarah.
Along the way, there are plenty of awkward situations (mostly dealing with sex), one-liners (mostly dealing with sex) and cleverly juxtaposed scenes (only some dealing with sex). Keep a look out for my personal favorite scene(s): the genesis of “A Taste of Love,” a Dracula musical Peter began years ago but was too busy with the girlfriend to ever finish. The songs are pure genius – haunting melodies, lyrics filled with satire and Peter’s “Phantom of the Opera”-esque voice. It’s amazing.
The movie’s seriously funny, like almost-pee-in-your-pants funny, and it’s awesome. The film is in the same vein as “40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” (which figures – it has the same producers, same actors, etc.), so fans of those films should expect greatness once again.
But Peter is also, in a weird way, completely relatable. There’s a sense of universality in the story line, where you can’t help but empathize with the poor guy. This may be somewhat masked by the humor, but it’s there, hidden behind all those clever one-liners.
That’s what’s so great about the story: Peter may be completely out there in the physical sense (four times, I think), but he’s also completely out there in a deeper sense. And that’s just good story telling.