UK Release Date: 29th May 2015
Runtime: 86 minutes
Director: Ben Palmer
Writer: Tess Morris
Starring: Lake Bell, Simon Pegg, Rory Kinnear, Ophelia Lovibond
Synopsis: A shy, awkward woman in her thirties, unlucky in love, makes a spur of the moment decision to pose as a man’s blind date, but loses her way when the evening unravels.
The concept of the British romcom is not one that has been particularly well-served by recent cinema. Outside of the oeuvre of Richard Curtis, the genre has been rather stagnant. However, from the pen of Tess Morris – previously best known for her work on TV series My Family – comes Man Up, which looks to reinvigorate the genre.
Nancy (Lake Bell) is struggling to become more outgoing as she recovers from the break-up of a long term relationship. She meets the optimistic, self-help book reading Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) on a train, preparing for a blind date. After a mix-up puts Nancy in Jessica’s position, she decides to take the bull by the horns and pretends to be Jack’s (Simon Pegg) date. The arrival of an old school classmate (Rory Kinnear) soon threatens to expose the ruse, though.
Right from the start, Man Up wears its genre on its sleeve. Unlike recent genre efforts such as Friends With Benefits and What If, the film isn’t trying to subvert genre conventions in any way. For Man Up, the genre is a warm comfort blanket that allows it to relax and focus on character above narrative.
| "For the first time in ages, I put myself out there and I took a chance."
Morris has a terrific aptitude for character, which is enhanced by the two excellent central performances from Lake Bell and Simon Pegg. Bell, adopting a flawless Brit accent, does a stellar job of conveying her character’s facade of confidence, as well as the vulnerability and sadness underneath. It’s an effortlessly comedic turn at the centre of Man Up, but one that brings real complexity along with the humour.
Bell has a terrifically awkward chemistry with Simon Pegg that powers much of the film’s first act. The second act gets an adrenaline shot from the presence of Rory Kinnear, who steals every scene in which he appears as a hilariously over-cranked loner with a creepy obsession. The character could easily have derailed Man Up by going a step too far with its creepiness, but Morris’ script is nimble enough to avoid these issues.
The script is perfectly pitched and Ben Palmer (The Inbetweeners Movie) gets the tone just right with his sunny, unshowy direction. Morris makes it clear that she’s aware of the genre clichés, but she doesn’t beat the audience over the head with her awareness. She knows that what she’s doing with Man Up plays into cliché, but she also makes it clear that the film isn’t too smart to avoid that.
| "I’ve got a confession to make. I’m not really your blind date."
Man Up is a romantic comedy that embraces tradition with both arms and, as a result, conjures up a warm, often very funny movie. The performances are impressive and the comedy is sharply-observed, providing a sideways look at modern dating between two people who shun the social networks that usually make connection so easy.
Pop or Poop?
With Man Up, Tess Morris has taken the British romcom back to its roots with a charming tale that acknowledges cliché and convention without feeling the need to subvert them for the sake of it.
Pegg and Bell form an interesting central couple, with Rory Kinnear and Ophelia Lovibond shining in their supporting roles.
It’s not going to win awards for originality, but it’s the very definition of a fun, frothy date movie.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.