Thankfully those archetypal and occasional ‘nothing being the eyes’ rom-coms, that were all the rage 5-10 years ago, don’t survive as well right now and in their place we’re tending to discover more independent work that feel both authentic and legitimately funny. Does Man Up pick up the relationship-comedy-drama element and take a seat in that positive vicinity? Damn right it does.
Penned by the excellent Tess Morris, her lively script continually keeps holds our curiosity combined throughout with spot on performances from Simon Pegg and Lake Bell who pull us along on their accidental blind date like a fly-on-the-wall friend. To cut to the chase, we join Nancy (Bell) who’s hung-over and travelling across London on her way to her parents Anniversary party. On the train a rather perky lady has been listening in on her phone call and consequentially insists the self-help book she’s reading is all Nancy needs to sort her life out. As they arrive at Waterloo, a moment of coincidence occurs when Nancy meets Jack (Pegg), a 40-year old who was meant to meet the positive girl (from the train) for a blind date but instead meets our Nancy. Instead of saying she’s not the girl Jack was meant to meet, Nancy decides to just go with it because, in truth, they appear to make an evident connection.
As they walk down the Southbank in London, the pair are getting along but Jack still thinks that she’s his blind date and as the lies grow, Nancy is enjoying herself too much to back out now. We can tell she’s enjoying the attention but also aware her family is always telling her to take chances, so here she is, taking those opportunities… even if it’s not exactly true. From here, they go out drinking, share a lot of things in common, and it all builds up to a great day of bowling and fun until…the truth comes out via a hilarious surreal sequence with a mad – yet entertaining – Rory Kinnear in the Men’s toilet, in his pants, playing a stalker/ex-friend who’s in love with Nancy but also knows she’s telling fibs.
Without giving every specific moment away, it’s key to let go and just be involved with this one. Sure, there are a few elements of film-only situations but it doesn’t matter. Some movies are out there for deeper analysis but the best ‘real’ character storylines, like here in Man Up, are the ones when you want to be those people for a moment. You want to be part of the adventure and mainly because it’s got so much heart, and it’s naturally funny.
There are no questions over Lake Bell’s British accent, it’s normal London-ish with no qualms of being over-posh and it’s clear from her work with In a World… that imitation is strong with her. More significantly, she’s believable as Nancy. You can equally understand why she chooses what she does and, for me, she’s every kind of awesome. Simon Pegg is on song again as well, it’s in the similar vein of his character from Hector and the Search for Happiness but this time he’s more conventional and honest. It’s a stronger, more rounded character. Both actors bring their own personalities to the role and it works impeccably, with every flaw being equal to their individuality.
Man Up has fast become one of my favourites of the year and although I’m not forcing you to watch it, where would any of us be if you didn’t take a chance every now and then?
Man Up is available on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD now, order by clicking here.
My review was originally published on The Hollywood News.