Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

forgetting sarah marshall IMDb

Having broken-up with guys after the advent of social media, I understand a little bit of what it’s like to separate from someone but be unable to escape them. Luckily for me my exes were non-celebrities, so erasing them from my life was as easy as un-friending or blocking them. But what if you are the ex of a famous person? How hard would it be to excise him or her from your life when they could easily pop up in on the TV, movie screen, billboards, in magazines, online advertisements with no warning? There would be no easy escape short of living in a secluded cabin with no television or internet access.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall explores this topic, following music composer Peter (Jason Segel) after his break-up from television actress Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). Hoping to put some distance between himself and his sorrow, Peter goes on a Hawaiian vacation, only to find that Sarah is there too with her new rock star boyfriend (Russell Brand). He soon befriends hotel concierge Rachel (Mila Kunis), and she helps him finally put Sarah behind him.

The ” ‘nobody’ dating a celeb” spin is a fun take on what is otherwise a pretty generic rom-com plot. Still, there’s a certain brilliance to Jason Segel’s writing that makes you forget that you’re watching something you’ve probably seen before. This script is nowhere near as great as his masterpiece, The Muppets, but this film includes scenes that demonstrate his genuine affection for Jim Henson’s creations. (Peter is shown sadly singing the theme song from The Muppet Show, and is writing a Dracula musical performed by puppets. This musical is the best subplot of the entire movie.)

I was surprised at how great the cast of Forgetting Sarah is, given that most of them were better known for television when this was made. This movie helped launch the film careers of Segel, Kunis, and Bell. It’s always risky transitioning from TV to film, but these three do so with success. I was also first introduced to Russell Brand here, and highly recommend watching his stand up special where he talks about filming this. He’s actually quite brilliant given that he’s probably just playing himself, but this is one of those times when it works perfectly.

My only real complaint about this movie is that it falls back on crude language and humor a bit too often. I’m no prude, I just know Jason Segel is capable of being tremendously funny without going blue. Obviously The Muppets is a great example of this, but there are plenty of scenes and jokes within Forgetting Sarah that are funny without needing to be off-color. There’s also an entire subplot involving newlyweds who are having difficulty consummating their marriage that seems thrown in just to up the crude language. As much as I love Jack McBrayer’s performance during these scenes, they are entirely unnecessary.

Rating: B

This film was such a surprise for me. All of the leads were better known to me as tv actors, except for Russell Brand who I did not know at all before this film. Forgetting Sarah Marshall captures really well the different stages of a break up and the awkwardness that occurs after it has happened.

Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) is a successful television actress, currently starring in an CSI rip off detective show. She is also dating the show’s composer, Peter (Jason Segel). She dumps him early on in the film, leaving him a devastated mess. Hoping to pick up the pieces, Peter decides to go on holiday to Hawaii while his show is on hiatus. Peter is horrified to discover that Sarah is also there, along with her new lover, British rocker Aldous Snow (Brand). Peter must cope with constantly bumping into his ex and her new boyfriend, while also trying to start up a new relationship with the hotel receptionist (Mila Kunis).

This movie is really funny. It announced Jason Segel as a movie star, rather than a sitcom star who would only play supporting roles in films like Knocked Up. He carries the movie really well and plays the role of dumped lover well. His role is similar to Marshall on How I Met Your Mother, but a more risqué version. It was a great way for him to get into movies easily. This is not a risky role for him, but he does it well. Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis don’t have much to do here. They do well with that they have though. The star of the show for me was Russell Brand. He steals every scene he is in and even used the success of this film to play the character again in Get Him to the Greek. I doubt Aldous Snow was intended to ever have his own film during the production of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but Brand is so charming and charismatic in the role that he demanded attention. The supporting cast is filled with Judd Apatow alumni (he was a producer), outside of Segel, Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill also turn up in smaller roles.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a very funny film, anchored by the lovable Jason Segel. It is the performance of Russell Brand though, that elevates this film from standard comedy fare to something much more.

Rating: B

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