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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008, *)

To promote Forgetting Sarah Marshall, writer-star Jason Segal took to the august pages of the New York Times to advertise the precise number of frames in the comedy’s opening scenes that we are obliged to contemplate his junk: 79, transcribes the Gray Lady. Another innately conservative “shock” comedy from the petseleh.jpgJudd Apatow production line, Forgetting, the début from director Nicholas Stoller (who wrote the script to 2005’s Fun With Dick and Jane remake and three episodes of “Undeclared”) is one of the shaggiest to date. Segal plays Peter, who writes murky music for a “CSI”-like series that stars his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). She dumps him for a British musician, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), which he discovers when he retreats to Hawaii to get over his bawling fits and fits of balling and checks himself into the same hotel. Rachel (Mila Kunis), the pretty desk clerk at the resort helps him beyond the call of duty and they meet-cute, screw-cute and break-up-cute. While other writers have noted Apatow’s fondness for stories about shrubby men who are honey to attracted women, “Sarah Marshall” is the first that approaches levels of misogyny, especially in the way Bell is shot, with inconsistent lighting and angles that accentuate how close her eyes are together, almost akin to the inexplicable tomato hues of Kirsten Dunst’s skin in Spiderman 2. Kunis is only slightly better served, but she holds her own with her level gaze, large green eyes, superb timing and a fine plush pudgy nose. But the reverse angles on Segal are all static-camera stand-ups, the most advanced example of the “Stand there and say shit and say shit and say some more shit” until we run out of time. The camera can’t move while the guys in “Sarah Marshall” are riffing. (An unfunny Bill Heder plays a pal of Peter’s who’s seen almost exclusively on the screen of his laptop). Still, it’s the avowed comedy of the male frontal nudity in four shots and the many perspectives of the tall Segal’s pale chest that exposes the nakedness of the enterprise. (It’s still to be preferred over Mike Myer’s compulsive display of his fishbelly-white rump.) I’m not an opponent of a plethora of petseleh, but it’s almost as unfunny as Peter’s obsession with a puppet musical of “Dracula.” A nudist has to dream, I suppose. (There’s a Segal nude scene in Knocked Up, too.) There’s no double standard, though: there’s at least two sets of perky bared breasts, or mid-fucking midriffs covered with a bedsheet for every fifth glimpse of ample man-boobs. In a way, it’s a high-art homage to Peter Greenaway’s R-rating-buster, Prospero’s Books, which stymied the MPAA censors with its ample acreage of withered man-flesh and Sir John Gielgud’s fallen knob. In the most important way, it’s a comedy with scattered laughs, myriad fetishes and fixations and no small amount of clumsiness.

One Response to “Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008, *)”

  1. Whitney says:

    Though the film had some cheap laughs for me (usually occurring whenever Paul Rudd spoke) I think I mostly agree with your review. The only thing I question is the reaction to Segal’s nudity that seems to be outrageous to most people who see the film. I guess after years of seeing full-frontal female nudity I’m ready to see a little male junk…not for any nefarious purposes, but merely to even the playing ground. Sarah Marshall certainly doesn’t attempt this (what with the boobies and all) but I just might appreciate the penis shots…I’m still thinking about it…but not too much!

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

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~ Paul Schrader

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