Man Up is wonderfully corny, and incredibly endearing – I just wish it was a little more consistent.
“For the first time in ages, I put myself out there. And I took a chance. Blah, blah, blah, the end.”
Are rom-coms corny? And if so, is that necessarily a bad thing? Part of my love of cinema has stemmed from that little dose of escapism it’s often offered. For ninety minutes, you’re able to bail from the stresses of real life and experience a sense of adventure or a romantic connection vicariously through others. Man Up delivers plenty in both departments, and comes off feeling like a genuine delight as a result. It’s only once you apply a little more scrutiny than normal to its plot and characters that it begins to unravel a little.
Take its surprisingly original female protagonist-driven story. Lake Bell does an excellent job anchoring proceedings, marking herself out as a wonderfully endearing hopeless heroine – with a surprisingly strong English accent to boot. She’s brilliantly flawed, and like her male counterparts, makes a few mistakes along the way. Why is it then, that Simon Pegg’s Jack makes the sweeping (and admittedly incredibly uplifting) romantic gesture?
And then there’s Jack himself. Pegg actually gives one of his most likeable performances to date – settling nicely into the traditionally dashing romantic lead role with surprising ease after a career playing dorks, sidekicks and weirdos. He adds that dorky, sensitive charm to the character. What undermines him slightly are a few of Jack’s mannerisms. He’s hardly patient with the situation – and his fixation on Nancy’s age is very off-putting.
You could argue that writer Tess Morris & director Ben Palmer (who both do a fine job blending raunchy humour, wit and genuine heart here), were just trying to imbue the film with a sense of realism through Jack & Nancy’s flaws – but that’s totally undermined by the inherently corny moments and sweeping gestures. A little more consistency would’ve been welcome. But at the end of the day it’s a rom-com, and who cares? I suppose not all film is meant to hold up under intense analysis/scrutiny. Sometimes, it’s just there to make you smile.
And this one does – a whole damn lot.
I was going to touch on how utterly unacceptable a comic relief Rory Kinnear’s rapey Sean was here, but I that got a little too dark for the tone of my piece. Seriously though, couldn’t they have gone with hapless sad-sac, instead of sex-offender-in-the-making? It takes away from the film’s otherwise glorious final tracking shot too.