Arts & Life, Theatre

Navigating Netflix: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

There’s rarely a good time or place to dump someone. Hearts get broken. Scenes get made. People get stalked. Well, hopefully that last one isn’t part of the equation for most breakups. But ending a long term relationship is always at its most difficult when someone is naked, like the moment that starts it all in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

The star of a C.S.I.-esque show, Sarah is a bonafide Hollywood success and in a relationship with TV show soundtrack producer and wannabe puppet musical writer Peter Bretter. Out of the blue, she dumps him while he stands naked in their living room. Well, it’s out of the blue to him. She’s been thinking about it for awhile and has been seeing rock icon Aldous Snow on the side. Peter responds by going on a series of horrific dates, then taking a trip to Hawaii only to discover that Sarah and Aldous are also there. Staying at the same hotel. And so begins the unintentional stalking.

As a Judd Apatow production, there is some predictability to this movie, like Jonah Hill’s appearance. It’s a mix of romantic comedy, raunchy comedy, and off putting personal interactions. And unlike some of Apatow’s productions, it’s actually a well-balanced mix of those aspects.

Jason Segel is highly engaging as Peter Bretter. He plays the crushed heart well, showing an absurd level of vulnerability and pain. He doesn’t understand why Sarah, played by Kristen Bell, left and he doesn’t particularly want to…until he predictably meets Rachel Jansen, a new girl in his life on the island played by Mila Kunis.

Stuck in Hawaii, trying to choose between Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis. That pretty much sums the plot up.

Jonah Hill, Jack McBrayer, Maria Thayer, Da’Vone McDonald, Bill Hader, and Paul Rudd fill out the characters around Peter Bretter that support him both on and off the island. The story of Peter, Sarah, and Rachel is, in and of itself, formulaic.

Boy loses girl.

Boy meets new girl.

Boy pines for old girl but also like new girl.

You get the idea.

But the swirling group of crazies around them add alternate dimensions to the story that both drive the narrative and provide comedy. Russell Brand in particular is great as Aldous Snow, a peculiar rock star whose best days are behind him. As lead singer of the fictitious band Infant Sorrow, Snow has achieved great success and notoriety but has since fallen to the side of public consciousness though he’s still loved by a few diehard fans, like the one played by Jonah Hill. The character of Snow is over-the-top weird, experimental in his personal and professional life, and seems oblivious to how normal people interact. Russell Brand was a perfect casting choice. The character was even popular enough to bring back in a follow up Apatow production called Get Him to the Greek that focused on Snow and a new character played by Jonah Hill.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is ultimately a clever romantic comedy that delivers enough unique laughs to set it apart from the pack of romantic comedies that inundate theatres. While it’s not one of Apatow’s best films, it’s still a great watch that features one of the greatest musical adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula ever performed with puppets.

And, if nothing else, it’s memorable for Jason Segel’s full frontal nude breakup scene, which might be one of the funniest, most awkward breakup scenes in film.