Man Up

Love is Blind… Date.

When Nancy (Lake Bell) starts monologuing and pulling faces at the camera whilst trying to psyche herself up for a blind date in the very opening images of Man Up I wondered if this was going to be a total waste of my time. It came across – to me at least – as trying too hard to be funny.

Nancy continues to get herself ready for a party that she doesn’t want to go to where she is to meet the blind date she has little interest in. You could almost say she holds disdain against him in fact. Whilst this first scene isn’t particularly hilarious it did make me slightly warm to Nancy at least.

After the party Nancy heads home on a train and it’s at this point that I started really liking Nancy as a character. It really didn’t take long to completely change my impression of the character. You see, Nancy is cynical, short tempered, bad mouthed and self destructive but underneath her abrasive and dismissive exterior she is actually lonely, vulnerable and just a bit melancholy. I’d like to think that this is a character that everyone can relate to in some way but hey, perhaps it’s just me with a cynical outlook on everyone else’s life whilst secretly wanting to be adored!?

Nancy’s traits are actually delightfully woven throughout the film. She starts off cynical of an ‘always-positive’, happy but naively innocent Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) who she meets on her train journey home. Jessica is desperate to push her self-help enlightenment rubbish on Nancy by stressing that she needs to be more positive in her life and to ‘put herself out there’ if she is to find romance. Nancy obviously finds this notion slightly repulsive whilst simultaneously stuffing a giant sandwich into her face, trying to belittle Jessica and generally showing off her abrasive side.

The reason Jessica is carrying this self help guide is to help identify herself to her blind date Jack (Simon Pegg). Jessica actually leaves the book for Nancy (asleep by this time) with the aim to buy a new one. Nancy runs after Jessica thinking she has forgotten her beacon but of course bumps into Jack instead.

Nancy has been told time and time again to put herself out there so she tries to break her spell of loneliness by pretending to be the blind date.

This is where the film really starts picking up. Almost all of Simon Pegg’s films have some really intelligent scripting and this is no different. Whilst it doesn’t hit the heights of many of his other films the interplay between Jack and Nancy gets better and better throughout the film and does enough to keep you involved throughout. Jack starts off as nervous and emotional, unleashing verbal diarrhoea at Nancy who is desperately trying not to blow her cover by second guessing what Jack was expecting; in this case someone 10 years younger and a triathlete.

The date goes really well until Nancy self destructs by admitting that she isn’t actually the real blind date. Jack starts slinging blame and insults at Nancy who quickly looses her temper and leads towards the best scene of the film.

Jack and Nancy are in a bar, drunk. Jack is diagnosing Nancy as someone who is afraid to get emotionally involved and thus has to pretend to be other people whilst Nancy is diagnosing Jack as someone who is still hurting after a painful divorce and has to boost his self esteem through one night stands with girls almost half his age. The reason why this scene is the film’s highlight is because all the above happens whilst they are entangled in a dance together. They continue dancing as the argument gets more heated it’s almost a pastiche of the dance scene from Pulp fiction. That description doesn’t really do it justice but if you know Simon Pegg’s films I’m sure you get the idea.

Man Up is overall a light hearted romantic comedy; a bit of a chick flick. Although that holds a lot of negative connotations Man Up is relatively smart and definitely not as wishy washy as a lot of romantic comedies but at just 88 minutes it’s duration is pretty spot on.

The main characters are actually quite loveable in their own ways and manage to achieve what good introspective films do by reminding yourself that you just a fragile being in need of love or a grouchy fool who takes a twisted pleasure in being negative. Again, maybe that’s just me but a week after I’ve seen the film and Lake Bell’s character is still in my head so something is done right.

Apart from the characterisation the film doesn’t have any one thing that stands out. The script is pretty good for the most part, the cinematography is so-so the sound design and editing are acceptable which all serve to make the film a bit of a middle of the road film. Its a British made film so lacks some of the gloss of a Hollywood movie but that helps root us in reality and makes it easier to remind us of some of our best and worst traits without making a song and dance about it… even if that song and dance was pretty damn funny.

Go See

  • The dance scene
  • Self destructive Nancy
  • Intelligent script for the most part

Avoid

  • It’s not a whole lot more than just another romantic comedy
  • Amusing, not hilarious
  • Not particularly visually striking

Overall

3-stars

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