The uncomfortable first dates in Man Up are a perfect antidote to the unlikely meet-cutes of glamorous Hollywood rom-coms. Jaded by bad experiences with ‘loser’ single guys, cynical Nancy (Lake Bell) finds herself on an accidental blind date when divorcee Jack (Simon Pegg) mistakes her for a twenty-something triathlete. The mix-up results from a misplaced copy of trite self-help guide Six Billion People And You: just one of director Ben Palmer’s (The Inbetweeners Movie) sweet ironies.
Man Up Film

Bridget Jones’ Diary, Ruby Sparks and The Five Year Engagement have all created a similar tone of awkward comedy. Nervous, sometimes humiliating and often uneasy first encounters have been the life-force of great rom-coms for decades. Yet few achieve the honesty of Man Up: a feat largely due to the energetic performances of Lake Bell and Simon Pegg.

Bell triumphs in bringing warmth to Nancy’s unwavering British cynicism. Her faltering repetition of lame mantras is the epitome of saying one thing and doing, or believing, another. Meanwhile, Pegg creates a fragile exterior of career and personal success that cracks and crumbles to reveal a soft, squishy and genuinely moving twist.

Playing out over a single night, Palmer’s gags hit more times than they miss, with a dose of silliness provided by larger than life, unrequited love interest Sean (Rory Kinnear). Yet Palmer struggles to find a sincere ending to match the honesty of its leads’ romantic connection, slipping too easily into the grand gestures of familiar rom-com territory.

 

VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ ★ 4/5

 

Certificate: 15
Running Time: 88 minutes
Images:© 2015 – StudioCanal Ltd. & BBC Films Ltd.

 

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