Man Up

'Man Up' movie poster

Release: Friday, November 13, 2015 (limited)

[Netflix]

Written by: Tess Morris

Directed by: Ben Palmer

Man Up plays out like the self-help book on dating that you never knew you needed. Or wanted. It’s a romantic comedy where the romance is neither obnoxious nor saccharine and where not everyone is all LOL-ing up in your face because they’re having a jolly good time in a movie regardless of whether or not you the viewer are.

No, Man Up is actually pretty good fun and while the fates of our two star-crossed lovers aren’t anything surprising at least they make sense and can be believed. It doesn’t deal with perfect people with perfect smiles, even though stars Lake Bell and Simon Pegg are far from unattractive, and the story doesn’t aim to aggrandize anything. (Sure, be negative and call it an unambitious movie but I won’t say that, even though I technically did just say that.)

Ben Palmer directs a story written by Tess Morris about a woman in her mid-thirties, Nancy (Bell), who hasn’t had much luck in love lately and is utterly fed up with the awkward blind dates her family keeps setting her up on. When she finds herself at the right place at the right time, standing underneath the clock at the bustling Waterloo train station where Pegg’s Jack is supposed to be meeting a blind date, Nancy can’t quite bring herself to say who she really is and instead plays along as his ‘date.’

The eminently likable actors make it easy to buy in to the awkwardness of the situation. With a little bit of serendipity thrown in for good measure — Nancy is mistaken for Jessica (the would-be date) in part because she happens to be holding the same book Jack has been reading — our adventure plods onward through the streets of downtown London and into pubs. Meanwhile, it’s the night of Nancy’s parents’ 40th anniversary and she is expected to be giving a toast at the party.

The movie is titled Man Up but the farce ultimately revolves around Nancy and her inability to make decisions, good or bad. Well, she’s more naturally drawn to the bad ones, hence the irony of the title (I guess it’s ironic?). What makes it fun playing along as third wheel here is watching the actors adapt to the shift in dynamic when Nancy finally does own up to her actions. The nervousness of the initial meet-cute stage quickly gives way to bitterness, jealousy, even open hostility. Pegg nearly dissolves in the acidity of his own sarcasm as he begins to rue the moment while Bell adopts a more serious tone, simultaneously feeling bad for Jack while pitying her own hopelessness. Why can’t she just be “normal?”

After a slow start Man Up finds renewed energy following a heated exchange (not the kind you’re thinking you perv) in the men’s room at a smoky London dive. The film relies perhaps a little too much on the spontaneity of its performances as the stakes aren’t exactly high and you’d have to be blind drunk not to see how this night ends. Fortunately the characters have our sympathy as these are good-hearted people who have clearly paid the price for the mistakes they’ve made in the past, though Nancy is the more interesting character as all we get for a backstory concerning Jack is an all-too-brief cameo by Olivia Williams as his bitter ex-wife.

Man Up is lightweight fluff but it’s not forgettable fluff. Few and far between are the romantic comedies that play out quite so naturally, the ones that don’t suffer because of the strict parameters that make up the rom-com blueprint — we’re of course reminded of those limitations within the final scene, that grand gesture that just has to happen in front of as large a crowd as possible. The tears of joy. The awkward first-time introductions for maximum dramatic effect. But Man Up gets away with it, the cheeky little bugger.

Lake Bell and Simon Pegg in 'Man Up'

Recommendation: Fun, energetic and well-acted, Man Up is a modest romantic gesture that earns its laughs and even its more sappy moments. Not without its flaws, this is certainly one to watch if you’re a fan of either Bell or Pegg. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 88 mins.

Quoted: “I met a man today. For the first time in ages, I put myself out there. And I took a chance. Blah, blah, blah, the end.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.youtube.com

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34 thoughts on “Man Up

  1. I have been bypassing this on Netflix for a while because I believed I’d already seen it. Sean threw it on last nightand guess what…never seen it. Now I have!

    • Haha that’s pretty good. It’s certainly one of those where you either feel like you’ve seen it before (because it is a lot like others of its ilk) or where you haven’t seen it and you don’t really care to change that. I was certainly the latter up until a point. I was bored one night but wasn’t feeling a very heavy, dense movie so I threw this one on and it kept me entertained start to finish. I thank the cast for that

    • I love In a World. . ., that had a really fascinating subject and that was the first thing I had seen Lake Bell in and she was great. Man Up is just okay for me too, 5/8 isn’t super enthusiastic. I liked it though, breezy and light comedy and the romance wasn’t obnoxious or in-your-face like it is in a lot em 🙂

      • Mine was 4/8 so we weren’t far off haha. We tend to be pretty similar on most things really. I just remember being so impressed with the fact she wrote it. Such a breakthrough talent. I’ve seen Simon Pegg when we went on stage as part of a U2 gig.It’s like we’re best friends really 😉

    • Starry Starry Shit. Sounds like a good title to me. 😉 Pegg is always the best of those crappy outings too, but yeah it is good to see him in a better-than-average movie. I can’t say this is revolutionary, though. But it does the trick

  2. You liked this more than me, Tom, but I didn’t completely hate it! I just thought it was a typical, standard rom-com, right down to the big public display of love at the end. I still have a lot of time for Pegg even though he has been in some stinkers and I thought Lake Bell was quite charismatic…I’ve definitely had worse experiences in the cinema.

  3. Thanks for pointing this out mate. I’m trying to give romantic stuff more of a go, and I really like Pegg. I think I’ll give this one a shot. Great review mate, makes me wanna see it myself even though its not typically my sorta film

    • I always like turning people on . . . . . . . . .to new movies, that is. 😉 Yes. Yes, I think this one will be worth taking the leap for. If you like Simon Pegg then you’re in for a fun time. And Lake Bell is also a lot of fun in this kind of role. Good movie, and won’t waste a lot of your time either. Win-win?

      • Hahaha!! And yeah, sounds like a win win! I love Simon Pegg in most of the stuff I have seen him in so I reckon I’ll watch this one soon. Still need to see Almost Anything from last year tho

  4. Nice review as usual. I had this one ready to rent and then other films I “had” to see pushed it down in the queue. Your positive review makes me crave a lighthearted film. I love Pegg’s comedic timing and expressions, and Bell looks cute.

    • I’ve been kind of the same way. I added this to my To Watch list some time ago but other things, bigger titles, got in the way and I finally just decided to throw this on and see what it was like. Enjoyable, lightweight but most importantly fun. Hope you check it out!

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