British rom-coms are unashamedly corny with a time-proven formula: boy meets girl in unlikeliest circumstances, then boy and girl face a conflict that threatens to separate them, then boy and girl get together for good after a near-epic crowd-pleasing progression of events. Remember the frantic car trip that Will (Hugh Grant) takes with his mates in order to interview Anna (Julia Roberts) to convince her to stay in Notting Hill? No? You may perhaps remember the entourage that follow Jamie (Colin Firth) when he proposes to Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz) in Love, Actually. This formula can also be found in Man Up, directed by Ben Palmer – starring Simon Pegg (Jack) and Lake Bell (as Nancy).
Nancy is a 34-year-old journalist, still smarting from the last break-up and spending years being single and not wanting to take another chance. Her sister, Elaine (Sharon Horgan) tries to get her to get out a lot more and take a chance in dating again. Through a serendipitous series of events, Nancy ends up meeting Jack at Waterloo station. Jack is meant to meet Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond), a passenger who sits opposite Nancy at the train. Jack mistakenly thinks that Nancy is Jessica and goes on a blind date with her – they realise that they share a lot of similar baggage and share some common interests in movie one liners. Jack subsequently finds out that Nancy has been posing as Jessica and ‘stealing’ her date …
Despite the nearly predictable storyline, Man Up is a charming rom-com that manages to elicit laughters and awwww’s. This is also thanks to the loveable down-to-earth characters and the believable acting by Simon Pegg and Lake Bell. Like other British films, Man Up also has some witty ripostes that make the story reasonably fresh and enjoyable, even when you know that it follows the same formula.
Throughout the movie, the director manages to keep the movie flowing well with the same style and quality throughout. The only lapse in quality happens in the scene in the bar when Nancy tries to extinguish a fire – somehow, either the fault of the camera used or the editing, it feels as if I was watching an amateur home video. Just for a split second. Ben Palmer also smartly ties the last scenes of the movie with the opening scenes – a similar setting in two different occasions. As his directing style develops and matures, I’m sure we will have more movies that are ‘tighter’ in execution as well. Man Up is an enjoyable, heartwarming movie which I like – but if you are not as jaded nitpicky as I am, you will enjoy this movie a lot more!