Man Up: Review


One of my favourite romantic comedies of all time is When Harry Met Sally. Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, New York City and Louis Armstrong – it’s a winning formula that many film’s have tried, and failed, to recreate over the past twenty six years. Not only is it romantic and funny – essentials for a romantic comedy – but it’s an intelligently written observational piece, about relationships, sex, divorce and mid-life fears.

Man Up may not have Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, New York City or Louis Armstrong – although it does have a brilliant, genre-bending soundtrack that ranges from The National to Whitesnake – but it does have a lot in common with the former favourite. In fact, it’s easily the closest a film has ever come to replicate the success of When Harry Met Sally.

The story is one of mistaken identity, a familiar generic trope that feels fresh and original here. Lake Bell plays Nancy, a cynical romantic, who accidentally ‘steals’ somebody’s blind date, after he quotes Silence of The Lambs to her – clearly proving to be a man of promise. Simon Pegg plays the blind date, Jack, a recently divorced and heartbroken forty year old, who was expecting to meet a twenty-something triathlete. 

The film takes place over the course of their first date, as they encounter creepy old school friends and ex-wives. As the night goes on, a relationship begins to develop between the pair – but will it turn into everlasting love, or remain, simply, a brief encounter?

One of the best British romantic comedies in recent years, I came out of Man Up with an aching face from permanently smiling for the last hour and a half. My heart was warmed, my stomach felt all fuzzy, and all was well in the world. In short, it’s a total joy to watch – especially for an old romantic like me, currently missing my travelling fiancée. A lovely, life affirming piece of cinema, that has some real intelligent writing.

The laughs are consistent, more so than any recent comedy I can remember. Tess Morris’ script is more than just genuine wit and charm though; it’s a contemporary look at the modern day pressures of dating, love, and middle age life. Morris cleverly uses the idea of mistaken identity as a statement about the dating world in general, and the fact that on a first date, we’re never really ourselves anyway – in an attempt to impress and woo. 

All those themes that were dealt with in When Harry Met Sally are all here, but updated for the modern day world and a whole new generation of filmgoers. There’s even a slight nod to the previous film in a scene that involves Bell practically re-enacting that famous diner sequence which so beautifully earned the line “I’ll have what she’s having”.

What’s interesting is that both films are written by women, proving, in my opinion, that they are far superior writers than men. Both male and female characters are written with depth and understanding, which makes the film familiar and relatable, as well as hilarious.

What helps hugely, are the performances from Lake Bell and Simon Pegg, who make for a very believable and charismatic onscreen pairing. You get the sense that they love the material that they have to work with, and are having a lot of fun making the movie, which is contagious. Chemistry is everything in a film like this, and the duo have plenty of it. 

Charming, clever and funny – you could say that it was love at first sight for me and Man Up. At a time where everything feels a bit dark, gloomy and miserable in film, this made me uncontrollably happy – and in truth, I couldn’t have asked for more than that. Go see it. 

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