Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Rated – R
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Russell Brand, Mila Kunis
This review was written on April 23, 2008.
For all those already writing off Judd Apatow because of his mildly accepted Walk Hard and the poor Drillbit Taylor, you spoke too soon. The most recent project from the Apatown, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is the most raunchy R-rated comedy in his arsenal. This is by far the best comedy of 2008 and in my opinion, the best film in this early year… but I’m saying this as one who thoroughly enjoys the male-driven, explicit, sex-crazed Apatow comedies. If you’re not a fan, then don’t even bother with this one.
But for everyone who loved 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad… this is right up your alley. Written by Jason Segel (a part of Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks and Knocked Up), there are a surplus of laughs from the very funny situations and dialogue that develops.
The story’s protagonist is Peter Bretter (Segel) and unlike most of Apatow’s lead men, he’s not a complete loser or geek. He’s actually an ambitious musician who has a dream to compose and produce a Dracula-opera with puppets, but settles for a steady job by making the background music for a TV crime show (that spoofs CSI brilliantly) that his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Bell), stars in. One day when Sarah calls Peter to tell him she’s coming over, he immediately suspects she wants sex… which turns into a hilariously awkward break-up scene with Peter baring it all.
The time that follows the break-up is a dark one for Peter who engages in casual sex and sulks at home to try and gain closure over Sarah Marshall, but is unable to. Finally he decides to take a trip to Hawaii to breathe some new air and free his mind… but when he finds out that’s where Sarah is also vacationing with her new boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Brand), Peter is back to square one crying uncontrollably over his lost love.
Until he finally gets a break. The hotel desk clerk, Rachael (Kunis), offers some kindness towards Peter than really affects him. She’s the first girl who has reached out and touched him since the break-up. And so the romantic comedy formula takes its course, full of complications and changes of heart, but never losing its laugh-out-loud moments.
What separates this film (and all of the Apatow classics) from other romantic comedies is their depth. With a lazy script, the characters could’ve easily been two-dimensional: Sarah Marshall as the evil bitch who cheated on Peter. Rachel as the perfect sweetheart who’s meant to be with Peter but he can’t see past his ex. And Aldous as the cocky jerk who stole Sarah away. But all of the characters weren’t penned in just to be objects in the plot. They’re all real and have their own personal baggage along with their attractive qualities to seem flawed, yet tempting. Sarah Marshall isn’t a bitch, Rachel isn’t an innocent sweetheart, and Aldous isn’t a complete jerk. And Peter is mixed up in this pool of uncertainty without a clue what to do or what he wants.
Overall, this is an extremely funny movie with a lot of heart. Some critics have coined Apatow productions as “chick flicks for guys.” Although I don’t agree with that term entirely, I do admit it’s somewhat accurate. The comedy thrives from its cast, starting from Jason Segel to the popular Britain comedian Russel Brand to the minor characters played by Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, and Jack McBrayer. The screenplay is spot-on, creating conflicts and warm sentiment between the characters while moving the story along with perfect pacing. Even though some parts, including the ending, were predictable (and cliché) I’ll also be cliché by saying there’s nothing forgettable about Forgetting Sarah Marshall.