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  Man Up Kiss And Made Up
Year: 2015
Director: Ben Palmer
Stars: Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Olivia Williams, Ophelia Lovibond, Harriet Walter, Rory Kinnear, Sharon Horgan, Dean-Charles Chapman, Ken Stott, Henry-Lloyd Hughes, Robert Wilfort, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lasco Atkins, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, John Bradley
Genre: Comedy, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Nancy (Lake Bell) is at a party in a hotel, or rather she’s supposed to be, but in spite of geeing herself up in the mirror in her room she finds it’s far easier to stay where she is and order room service for one. When the food arrives, she is about to dig in when her sister Elaine (Sharon Horgan) calls her phone to find out how she’s getting on with the blind date that was set up for her at the gathering, so is dismayed to hear Nancy isn’t bothering. After a pep talk and a reminder in her notepad of what’s important in seeking a happier, more assertive existence, she is persuaded to venture downstairs, but when she meets the hapless bloke the conversation doesn’t get off to a good start when she manages to talk about getting urine on her hand…

Which she hasn’t done, she wants to be clear about that, but she’s put some unfortunate images in the date’s head that will prove difficult to shift, so she can wave goodbye to him pretty promptly. Man Up happened along during a period when after a lot of productions that were underwhelming at best, hateful at worst, the romantic comedy looked to be in poor shape, and thus nobody had much hope for what looked to be a British effort which imitated the Hollywood high concept approach to the genre, a style that had turned many audiences off. It even imported an American star, Bell showing off an impeccable English accent, to supply the female half of the couple who meet cute in a railway station, except the meeting isn’t cute at all.

Her potential partner was Jack, played by Simon Pegg who was disappointing his fans by showing up in non-Edgar Wright or blockbuster efforts that were a waste of his talent, works that set him up in the lead and proceeded to make him look insane for thinking these were solid career choices, and this item looked on the surface to be yet another misstep. Guarded reviews didn’t exactly build confidence, but as it was it did all right, and that was because while it may have had a troubling premise, screenwriter Tess Morris worked a little magic with it to render it palatable. She did so by making it plain that we may be wondering whether Nancy is a nice person at all, yet inside she was fretting over the same thing.

To explain: Nancy meets a young woman, Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) on the train down to attend her parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary to deliver a much-anticipated speech. She suggests Nancy read a self-help book to sort her life out, as she has suggested to her blind date who she will recognise because they will both be carrying said tome under the clock in Waterloo Station. Somehow, Nancy is left the book, rushes to give it back to Jessica, and ends up meeting Jack who mistakenly believes her to be Jessica, and Nancy doesn’t manage to bring up the fact that she is not. Therefore, absurdly, they commence the date that Jessica should have been on as the subterfuge grows ever more difficult to sustain, which really should have left us willing Nancy to trip herself up and give the game away.

And yet, there’s something about Bell’s performance and the manner in which her character was written, be it a certain vulnerability or her self-sabotaging honesty that she’s managed to conceal just for one evening, that has us wanting this to work out for her. That in spite of all the obstacles the night throws in her path, including meeting an old schoolfriend, Sean (a game Rory Kinnear), who had an unrequited crush on her that has been brewing into near-stalker-like obsession over the years (part of the internet age this digs at are that he could keep tabs on Nancy online though she’s not even on Facebook). As Sean threatens to give the game away it brings up the question how this is going to last a whole movie, given the fakery is so fragile and it’s only Jack desperately needing the date to go well that is keeping it afloat, but while once it was over it seemed obvious, while you were watching there were some genuine innovations in what was a convoluted boy meets girl story. When it has reached the cheery ending, what sounded unpromising has turned out to be a real charmer with many big laughs. Music by Dickon Hinchcliffe.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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