Man Up (2015)
“Right time, right place, wrong date”
Man Up (2015)
Director: Ben Palmer
Cast: Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Olivia Williams
Synopsis: A single woman who’s mistaken for a stranger’s blind date, leads to her finding the perfect boyfriend.
Man Up doesn’t exactly appear to be a promising proposition on paper. Modelled on the kind of feel-good rom-com plot that Richard Curtis knocks out on a wet Wednesday afternoon, featuring balding, slightly-built comic actor Simon Pegg (24 Hour Party People, The World’s End) as a romantic leading man, and American actress Lake Bell (Black Rock) as a Southern middle-class Brit, it bears all the hallmarks of a wannabe movie that’s a little too concerned about finding distribution in the States. Fortunately, while older members of the audience might cluck over how Man Up condones women wandering off with strange men they meet in railway stations and engaging in sex with them in the downstairs toilet of their parents’ house during a party within hours of meeting, younger viewers will probably be enchanted by its sappy romanticism and occasionally witty observations regarding the cruelly impersonal lottery that is the modern dating game.
It has to be said that Bell absolutely nails the British accent. In fact, she’s so convincing that anyone unfamiliar with her previous work could be forgiven for believing she actually was a native. Her character, Nancy, is a typically mixed-up mid-thirties Bridget Jones-like heroine who’s afraid to venture back into the turbulent waters of the dating game despite the fact that the window in which she can give birth without being mistaken for her child’s Grandmother is rapidly closing. So, when 40-year-old Jack (Pegg) mistakes Nancy for his blind date, she impulsively chooses not to correct his assumption. Naturally, it soon becomes apparent that the two are made for one another, but genre convention dictates that there must be obstacles to overcome before the course of true love can run smooth, and these obstacles arrive in the shape of Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond – London Boulevard), Jack’s intended blind date, and Sean (Rory Kinnear – The Imitation Game), a bowling alley attendant and former schoolmate of Nancy’s who harbours a long-standing obsession with her.
Without its mistaken identity gambit, Man Up has the potential to descend into stereotypical farce, and it does in fact stray perilously close at times. Fortunately, writer Tess Morris has Jack unearth Nancy’s deceit early enough for the story to take a slightly more plausible direction. While Jack might appear witty and carefree on the surface, he’s nursing his own set of insecurities, and is still smarting over the infidelity of his soon-to-be ex-wife Hilary (Olivia Williams – The Haunting of Radcliffe House) with a merchant banker, whom the couple inevitably stumble upon during the course of their date. It’s an encounter which provides Nancy with the opportunity to expound upon her amusing ‘shifting pornography rating of a relationship’ theory which is easily the observational height of the movie. Regrettably, Morris’s screenplay, while consistently amusing, rarely reaches the quality of this brief interlude and it often falls upon the winning personalities of the two leads to carry the weaker passages – although even they fail to prevent Man Up from descending into three-hankie feel-good sentimentality for its finale.
(Reviewed 23rd October 2015)