Judging from a cross-section of Tribeca Film Festival movies I have seen (sample size: two), the dominant theme of the Fest seems to be the mating rituals of gorgeous brunettes with ticking biological clocks. With no time to spare, and eccentric families spurring them on, the gals fall in love with loquacious comic actors, as gorgeous women so often do.
You may remember Rebecca Hall from such movies as Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008), where she played second fiddle to the blonder and bustier Scarlett Johansson, or Starter for Ten (2006), where she played second fiddle to the blonder and bustier Alice Eve. This time around Hall gets to play lead, as Hannah, the depressed widow of a recently deceased cult musician. Comic actor Jason Sudeikis shows up in Quaint Maine Town to write a thesis or something about the dead musician. He’s a callow academic looking to make his reputation on the departed’s coattails – think Jeff Goldblum as the schmucky journalist in The Big Chill. For movie plot reasons, it’s obvious from the start that Sudeikis will end up curing Hall’s depression, and she will in turn cure his jackassedness – it’s just a question of when and how. There are some decent scenes – a big family scene with Blythe Danner reminding Hall about her biological clock is a standout – and Sudeikis gets some good lines, but mostly the movie just takes too long. Also the Sudeikis character is just a bit too venal and mouthy to be a likable romantic lead. And for some sort of culty legendary guy, the dead musician’s songs need to be a lot better than they are.
This movie starts out with Generic Rom-Com Plot #37 – woman is mistaken for somebody’s blind date, and decides to play along. But the woman is Lake Bell (In a World, Children’s Hospital, How to Make it in America), the date is Simon Pegg (Sean of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End), and the director is Ben Palmer (The Inbetweeners – both the TV series and the movie). In other words, the first rate talent makes Man Up that rare romantic comedy that is actually fun and not at all annoying.
Lake Bell has a bad haircut, and plays her character Nancy like a cross between Bridget Jones and the Sally Hawkins character in Happy-Go-Lucky (2008). She’s a whirligig of movie quotes and snotty quips. Her friends and parents are desperate to get her fixed up because her Biological Clock is Ticking, but nobody interests her until she meets Simon Pegg in London, another motormouth who can’t stop quoting old movies. There is the requisite falling-in-love montage, some power ballads, and a big finale, but the movie is self-aware enough to put quotes around the tired tropes and not take them too seriously. Plus there’s an over the top comic turn by Rory Kinnear that is probably worth the cost of admission by itself.
Final Verdict: if you can see only one Brunette with Biological Clock Ticking romance movie this year, make it Man Up. Lake Bell is adorkable and Simon Pegg is a larf. Hopefully Rebecca Hall will get a better lead role than this. And Jason Sudiekis has nothing to worry about – he seems to be in every movie at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Now I’m off to see a Zooey Deschanel movie. I wonder which comedian she’s going to fall for…