Movie Review: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Length: 111 minutes
Release Date: April 18, 2008
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Stars: 4 out of 5
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a comedy about starting over after love ends. Starring Kristen Bell, Jason Segel and Paul Rudd, the movie tells the story of a man who travels to Hawaii to try to get over the love of his life. This sweetly raunchy movie is sure to delight comedy fans.
The story opens on Peter Bretter (Jason Segel), a lovable man who writes music for a television show. He is sweet and goofy, and has a TV-star girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). Sarah dumps Peter a few scenes into the movie, breaking his heart in the process. To get over her, Peter embarks on a series of meaningless flings with women who leave his life as quickly as they enter it.
After the endless procession of women fails to make Peter feel better, he heads to Hawaii to heal his heart in an island paradise. There, he meets a cast of bizarre characters who begin to help him rebuild his life. Among them is Rachel (Mila Kunis), the fast-talking front desk attendant at Peter's beachfront resort. They have chemistry right off the bat, leading audiences to believe that true love might be in Peter's future.
Peter's world falls apart once again when Sarah arrives at the same resort with a new boyfriend in tow. The new man is Aldous Snow (played by Russell Brand), a famous rock star who fits perfectly into Sarah's celebrity life. As the film plays out, Peter is forced to deal with his unresolved issues over his breakup with Sarah and confront his own shortcomings.
Jason Segel shines as the bumbling but lovable Peter. The actor brings his trademark sweetness to the role, allowing a gentle sensibility to shine through even when he is delivering crude lines. Segel, who starred in the show "Freaks and Geeks," is no stranger to the comedy scene; he has been a regular actor in Judd Apatow's projects for years. In addition to starring in the movie, Segel wrote the screenplay for "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." His writing demonstrates a remarkable comic timing. Even though the bulk of the movie revolves around crass jokes and crude humor, the characters occasionally expose their raw emotions. Segel never allows viewers to forget that they are watching a movie about a breakup.
The supporting cast members give masterful comedic performances that contrast nicely with Peter's melancholy mood. Kristen Bell creates a nuanced character that viewers will love to hate. Sarah's beauty is at direct odds with her arrogance, and Bell manages to inject notes of humility and emotion into an otherwise unlikable character. Rachel, Mila Kunis' character, is the exact opposite. She is sweet and unassuming, which is exactly what Peter needs to get over his broken heart. Jonah Hill plays a jovial restaurant server and Paul Rudd acts as a Hawaiian surfing teacher. Together, the two are a powerful comedic force. They bring a sense of lightness to the film that ensures a regular stream of laughter. Hill demonstrates the singular ability to deliver joke after joke without breaking character. Rudd, in a departure from his traditional acting fare as the guy next door, is an entertaining caricature of an island stereotype. Russell Brand rounds out the cast and brings his trademark brand of ridiculous humor to the mix.
First-time director Nicholas Stoller demonstrates great promise in his work on "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." He uses a restrained cinematic style for the film, opting to let the story and the characters take center stage. Stoller uses the movie's spectacular Hawaiian location to contrast with the characters' darker emotions. The soft light and swaying palm trees make an attractive background for most of the scenes, adding a gentle feeling that makes the most raunchy moments more palatable. Stoller's close-up shots convey the characters' emotions, giving audiences an intimate view of their subtle facial expressions.
Overall, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" breaks the mold of the "crude comedy" style. While many films in the genre stick to rude jokes and brash humor, Segel's film explores the depth of human emotion. Viewers will laugh, but they will also feel the pain that comes from losing love. This combination of emotions makes the film appealing on both comedic and dramatic levels. Although "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is not appropriate for children, it is certain to delight viewers who love Segel, Smith, Rudd or Bell. The realistic plot and loveable characters work together to create an enjoyable movie for comedy fans everywhere.