Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases
Lake Bell – Nancy
Simon Pegg – Jack
Rory Kinnear – Sean
Sharon Horgan – Elaine
Ophelia Lovibond – Jessica
Harriet Walter & Kenn Stott – Fran & Bert
I love a movie that takes place over the course of a single evening. I mean, an event unfolding between the hours of 7pm and 8am is pretty darn exciting – in many movies it ensures car dashes around the city, people being chased through streets, etc. A story taking place in the space of a night – or the twilight hours – and being rounded up by morning is exciting. Think Adventures in Babysitting (1987) or Date Night (2010). Stories like these give the movie a burst of ‘happening now’, an atmosphere of anticipation, rather than watching lengthy scenes blend from one day to another.
Man Up is built solidly around this element, and takes place over the course of few hours in the city of London.
When Nancy (quite literally) runs into witty stranger Jack at London Waterloo train station, the pair are thrown into a night of random events which sees their schedules take a U-turn, and their ego’s take a beating.
Jack is stood underneath the Waterloo ceiling clock as organised to meet his blind date, who he’ll recognise instantly as she will be carrying the same book as him – easy enough identification plan. However, his date has given her copy to hungover Nancy on the train journey to London (and purchased a new copy before meeting Jack). Nancy walks past first – Jack mistakes her for Jessica (his date) – and BAM – due to Nancy’s intensely hungover state and witty enthusiasm, she rolls with it. Accepts Jack’s arm. And is whisked off into the night by him.
The pair perform an early evening drinking session before heading off to the nearby bowling alley, and then continuing the booze-fuelled night in a nightclub, where revelations are revealed and tempers flare.
And it was bloody hilarious. Seriously, who’d have thought watching two strangers getting drunk would make for good entertainment? But again, the situation the characters found themselves in provided the wonderfully funny consistency a movie like this needs.
I’ve never seen Lake in anything before now, so it was refreshing to watch this new face bring many laughs throughout Man Up.
Firstly – she is very expressive. The movie opens with Nancy practising what she’s going to say to a man she’s being set up with at a friend’s party. And it’s quite funny to watch; the actress has a natural comedic flair especially with facial expressions. This scene – although short – had the audience laughing out loud already. Lake delivers lines with great timing as well as highly animated expressions. And the best part about her performance skills is the fact she is very natural. As though she doesn’t have to try very hard, she glides through every scene with comic precision – so natural that the entire movie could have been made purely from improvisation.
Lake certainly owns an expressive face, and most of it is in the eyes and mouth. During certain scenes involving upset or emotional distress, her mouth droops and her eyes widen – and it’s very effective. Think Toni Collette in Muriel’s Wedding; animated features full of emotion, able to convey the tiniest of feeling. Paired with Simon Pegg, the two of them make a brilliantly funny partnership.
As for Simon Pegg, I’m not one of his biggest fans if I’m honest. The guy tries too hard in most of the things he does; it’s not that I don’t find him funny.. I literally can’t find him funny. Shaun of The Dead was highly enjoyable, I loved it. But for some reason, anything else of his involving Nick Frost is just awful. Like two college buddies who are genuinely funny, but try a bit too hard to amuse others, coming off as – well – a bit of a twat. Fortunately, Man Up was where Simon turned the tables and actually delivered a character I warmed to. As Jack, the actor displays a ‘big softie’ who is down to earth and smart. And who also has a likeable sense of humour. For once there were none of those eager-to-please-the-audience wacky antcis, and instead, the guy had me interested in what his story was.
A very good pairing, Lake and Pegg.
The movie is full of brilliant humour and one-liner’s. Each character introduced over the evening brings his or her individual comedy gold. Nancy’s sister Elaine (Horgan) is always on the other end of the phone in urgency, old school peer Sean (Kinnear) who always had a crush on Nancy makes a surprising appearance – both with and without clothes, and ensures some excruciatingly funny and embarrassing moments. Nancy’s parents are a couple you won’t forget, as well as Jack’s uptight ex-wife and her new beau, and then of course – Jessica. The young lady who Jack was supposed to meet on his blind date..
One of the funniest scenes of this movie takes place in the female toilets of a bowling alley. It involves some fantastic comedy as Nancy inadvertantly walks into the toilet and straight into trouble with a near-naked, frisky Sean.
To describe the atmosphere: the audience were howling with laughter. Once again, Lake takes charge at full force with great comedic timing – and a hilariously disheveled appearance (one golden line being “I’m your future” to two sniggering young girls who enter the toilet).
But the moment Jack makes an entrance and finds Nancy stood in front of a naked Sean who is holding on to the scarf he has wrapped around her neck in a moment of fetish, all hell breaks loose.
The audience – and myself – were lapping up this scene; sheer farce taking place in a toilet with a ‘one in, one out’ scenario, and tempers rising to breaking point.
I loved it. This scene reminded me of Powder Room (2013) – an all-female comedy which takes place purely in the girl’s toilet of a nightclub. A movie that won me over instantly due to its relatable situation and observant comedy. I mean, let’s face it – many of us who have had nights out in clubs or bars have wandered into the toilets and had bizarre conversations with total strangers (or the porters). It happens. This is what Powder Room was based on, and what Man Up excelled at. Funny characters caught up in a sticky situation – in a toilet. Hilarious.
A good percentage of the humour in this movie is observant; people saying things that I could totally understand or relate to. In fact, from the opening scene Man Up gives its audience a dose of reality, just by displaying situations that most of us have found ourselves in, in real life. The funniest things are usually the things that are quite true. Relevant. This movie bleeds such detail and makes it a more interesting watch.
On a personal note, I will say that those random drunken nights experienced when your original plans take an unexpected turn are the best. They really are.
I made a long-lasting friend from a random night years ago..
Old Compton Street, Soho, London.
I was heading into Soho (gay district of London) to meet a friend for drinks to celebrate my birthday.
But something happened and she cancelled and left town, thus throwing me into a night out by myself. I stood there reading her text, pondering:
– Walk back to Leicester Square and get the tube home.
– Stay where I was and have a few drinks in the company of strangers anyway.
Naturally I thought, “fuck it” and headed into the night to celebrate growing older by toasting a drink to myself.
Wasted. Absolutely shitfaced, I exited G-A-Y (endless pop music and lollipops in the toilet – how could I not?) and staggered into the street outside.
Suddenly, I tripped up the curb and went tumbling into complete strangers – one of which was a very pretty blonde girl named Holly.
How did I find out her name?
Because that moment I went flying into a cluster of random people, she and I met – chatted – then went inside Bar Soho and ordered more booze..
We danced the night away to Lady GaGa (this was when Just Dance was first released and everyone loved it), exchanged numbers – and became friends.
Our first ‘date’ (nothing serious – she knew I was a bender) was a trip to Pizza Hut in Covent Garden, where we both stuffed ourselves stupid – and then I asked where to go next. There was a glint in Holly’s eyes and I knew what she was thinking..
Soho it was.
Another hilariously drunken night of dancing to bubblegum pop music in gay bars, falling over in the middle of the street and making conversation with complete (but interesting) strangers.
Holly and I were loving this sudden release of our inner child, the feeling of freedom and no responsibility. Dancing and drinks with people we’d just met in various bars. And our friendship continued. From walks along the River Thames with coffee to days out on the beach in Brighton (near where I lived at the time), Holly and I enjoyed each other’s company. We even ended up on TV once, taking part in British reality show The Real Hustle. But the thing we enjoyed most was storming Soho on a Saturday night and meeting people; because when conversation flows with a total stranger, it can be – in most cases – the most interesting part of the night.
..yes. All of this came from that one moment of spontanaeity when I stood alone in the middle of Soho, wondering, “turn left and get the tube home – or turn right?..”
It sounds profound, but is bloody true – your life can change depending upon the smallest of decisions.
And like Nancy and Jack in Man Up, a small decision led to the craziest, funniest and emotional night for the pair of them.
Being spontaneous is a brilliant quality to have, and this movie shows what could happen if a person went left instead of right. The exciting atmosphere of meeting someone and embracing the night is portrayed and is probably the best element of the movie. Top marks here.
If its solid consistency you’re wanting from this movie, you may as well choose another one to watch. Man Up jumps from scene to scene, place to place. It does not flow like a standard Hollywood production and does come across disjointed in parts. Its structure mirrors its theme; I.E. one person in, one out. Nancy and Jack in the street one second, in a bar the next – out of that bar, into another.. there’s a lot of swift setting changes, which results in the movie losing its way slightly. The scene where Nancy races Jack to a bar on a bicycle was a bit too random, unnecessary perhaps.
The ending scene was surprisingly flat. After everything the night produced for the couple, the movie ends on a quiet note – and the final image we see of Nancy and Jack is a bit weird, slightly filthy.
I really enjoyed Man Up.
It is a realistic and very observant comedy which flows at a good pace. It’s not the most side-splitting thing I’ve ever seen, but does provide some very funny lines and farcical moments. Its winning element has to be the story itself; a single girl taking a risk and hijacking a blind date of an oblivious man. This is an original idea I’ve not seen before but worked very well and although simple, the plot was plausible – despite the dull ending.
This movie is worth a watch if you find yourself at home on a Saturday night; invite a friend over, crack open the Pringles and enjoy. You may find you have a good giggle.