Review – Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Forgetting Sarah Marshall [2008]

Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd
Director: Nick Stoller
Screenwriter: Jason Segel, Judd Apatow

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is rude, crude, raunchy and unrelentingly funny. It’s also smart, touching, and at times feels very real. It was produced by Judd Apatow, and the mark shows quite clearly, from its casting to its jokes to its in-your-face sexual humor. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The film is also helped greatly by a truly fearless performance by Jason Segel.

As the film begins, we meet Peter (Jason Segel), who’s currently dating Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). She’s an actress on a CSI-esque TV show alongside Billy Baldwin called “Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime”. Peter does the show’s score. In the first scene, Sarah breaks it off with Peter, in what can only be described as perhaps the most embarrassing (and devilishly funny) break up scenes on film. From that point on viewers will understand why I describe Segel’s performance as “fearless”. In typical fashion, Peter’s best friend, Brian (Bill Hader) tries to help him get over Sarah. Peter decides to go to Hawaii, where Sarah always wanted to go (of course). But lo and behold, Sarah Marshall is staying at the same In fact, she’s everywhere, even on the in-flight movie. And she happens to have her new man, straight-edfe rocker Aldous Snowe (Russel Brand) The immediate upside to the trip for Peter is meeting the hotel receptionist, Rachel (Mila Kunis), a free-spirited and genuinely kind and sympathetic girl. Peter also meets many other interesting (and at times unbelievably funny) characters, including Chuck (Paul Rudd), a chronically stoned surfer.

But though the plot seems pretty routine, and in a way, kind of is, the jokes, gags, events, situations, and the way that they’re played feels fresh and, more than anything, they’re genuinely hilarious. A lot of the success is not so much the writing or directing, but the acting. The comic execution of the entire cast is so well done at times that I smiles simply for that reason alone. Though I cannot think of a scene that did not make me at least smile, there are many scenes of real insight and thoughtfulness. You know those scenes? The ones where a light bulb goes off over your head? And there are scenes that are touching and make you just like the characters more than you already did. And you already liked them so much.

As I said, the film is crude and raunchy. Some might think it goes too far. The sex scenes are pretty explicit, and the jokes are chalk-full of sexual innuendoes. But I found it refreshing, most of all because the delivery of such lines, and the set-up of such scenes was such that they were deserved. Violence is so often blatantly and grotesquely portrayed without anyone batting an eyelash. The fact that sex is still considered such a taboo is sad, but the filmmakers here decided to say “fuck it” and go all the way in classic Apatow fashion. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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