Could Jessica, I mean Nancy, be the first ‘real’ woman in a real Rom-Com since Sally met Harry?
As a woman, I entertain a frustrating love/hate relationship with the 'Rom-Com'.
Single, female but a human being, I find it hard to identify with female characters whose soul aim is to get the guy! Let alone when her aim includes changing herself, during the journey towards that primary goal.
I know I know, I’m a dating blogger, but I think of My Place Or Yours as a sitcom or soap opera. A half hour a week of concentrated guff on just one topic. In my case dating. But just like all the other people in the world, it's far from my all and everything which makes me, me. But, films span a little longer than a half hour slot, so I want a little more from my Rom-Com women. Please?
The only way I can describe Man Up is as a wonderfully entertaining, completely unrealistic but surprisingly believable, 88 minutes in the dark. For me the whole thing hangs on Lake Bell's incredible performance. Not only does she manage to pull off, 'slightly dowdy British spinster', she also makes fancying Simon Pegg believable! The script, from Screen Writer Tess Morris, is laced with hilarious one liners and the chemistry between Pegg and Bell make each joke come off as a well timed high five. For a film, which from the trailer, suggests it comes about 12 years too late to the big screen, it did a surprisingly great job of changing my mind. By the time Pegg and Bell are chasing around Soho I'm happily bar spotting and picking out offices I've worked in. I'm hooked!
A charming British comedy set beautifully in London. The only big mistake being taking a girl to the South Bank on a first date; one of the coldest and least romantic stretches of concrete in London.
The Rom-Com is one of the most formulaic genres in film, it's predictable, unrealistic and sometimes throat rammingly sickening. So with that in mind to get it right is really a great success. Simon Pegg recently said in an interview that we've become 'scared' of the genre. I think that's true and, it's with much trepidation I reveal that my favourite films are Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally and Tootsie, all classic Rom-Coms.
The first thing I did after watching Man Up (and let’s, just for now, let that title slip) was to march down to Boots and purchase, what I now proudly think of as, the exact shade of lipstick worn by Lake Bell throughout the movie. For to me the greatest films and stories are often simply ‘lifestyle porn’. The reason we sit and watch the credits roll at the end of the movie is to delay the return to our less than HD existences and, live one minute longer within the fantasy.
Lake Bell's Nancy is woman looking for change, not a man, and that's something I can believe in and a feeling I want to cling to for longer than the end of the credits.
That list opposite includes some of my own ticks, which I'm still waiting to, check off my own life list.
But many of our Carrie Bradshaws’ and Bridgets’ or Disney Princesses are all desperately clinging to the notions of a man bringing them happiness. It’s as if there isn’t a single other thought in our pretty little heads. In the mean time, male characters get to save the world, stop the bad guy or pull off the heist. Getting the girl is just a side-effect of being awesome. So rarely does it work the other way around, until now.
When Nancy meets Jack it’s straight off the back of a failed set up at a friend’s engagement party. She’s tired and bored of everyone knowing what’s best for her and she just wants to be free to make her own deadlines in life on the things most important to her (Get stronger thighs!). Enter Jessica; bright bubbly 24 and full of optimism, believeing a book really has changed her life and a set up blind date really will work.
The two women couldn’t be more different, it’s as if you’re watching a stand off between the old and the new Rom-Com.
(Spoiler Alert) Yes Man Up's Nancy does eventually fall into all the conventions set up for females in Rom-Coms, silly hats, witty one-liners, the inability to speak up right when she needs to and out of nowhere a fake orgasm Sally Albright style. Nancy meets Jack by accident, she's clutching the wrong book and looking like the wrong right girl. What she does next is to take a chance. For her, not for the man in front of her.
I loved Nancy's transition from hilarious slob, non-believer, sarcastic singleton to actually that same person, just plus one. She didn't pay the Sea Witch for legs, go on a crash diet, move countries or ask to be rescued. She met a boy pretended to be someone else but ultimately got the guy by being herself. By being awesome.
Go and see the film, Simon Pegg is actually pretty likeable, there are some great set pieces between the characters, mild nudity and hilarious dancing!
And look out for the blow-job paradox reference. Never a truer word has been spoken on film...