Would you like to see a movie that’s genuinely smart-witty funny, as opposed to dumbed-down farcical? A romantic comedy that’s contemporary-romantic, instead of sentimental and same-old, one that needs no apologies as a guilty pleasure but is simply pleasure-full, period? Maybe a movie that’s like “one of those great British rom-coms,” from the ‘90s or 2000s?
Hey, I’ve got it right here.
And if you’re a fan of Simon Pegg – even if you just know him as that funny British guy from the Mission Impossible movies – and if perhaps you like Lake Bell (leading lady/writer/director of In a World), then all the better, because they’re the ones who star in this movie, and they’re both at their best.
I’d like to tell you more about why you should go see Man Up this weekend, if you’re in Los Angeles or New York City (it’s soon expanding across the country to more theaters and then opening On Demand and digital everywhere), but I can’t. First of all because I hate being hyped about things, so I've already said too much - I think the best way to see a movie is if you know very little about it and/or you’ve been told that it sucks (the Law of Diminished Expectations).
And secondly, re: this particular movie opening, I’m an unreliable witness.
That’s because Tess Morris, the woman who wrote the movie, says “I read Billy Mernit’s book, my writing life changed, and I wrote Man Up.” Yeah, no, really: She says it right in this interview, among other nice things. And that’s not the worst of why I can’t “review” her movie, much as I’d like to. It’s because since she took Writing the Romantic Comedy to heart and wrote the movie and got it made, Tess Morris has become a friend of mine. Which is good for me – Tess is one fine and funny human being – but terrible for my credibility in this regard. If I go on about her most excellent work, you’ll just think I’m being completely subjective and prejudiced.
So maybe I’d be best off letting Tess speak for herself. Here’s what Ms. Morris says about the origin of her story:
The inspiration for Man Up came not long after I’d had my heart broken. A man came up to me at Waterloo Station thinking I was the blind date he was meant to be meeting, and I said I wasn’t… but as he walked away, I thought: “What if I had said I was? And isn’t that a great premise for a movie?” I wanted to write something about two people who had no idea about each other before they met. Internet dating means that you learn about, and reject, people before you meet them. How many people are we dismissing who might have some potential? You see a photo and say “No.” The Tinder swipe is the death knell of romance.
That’s from a piece she wrote in the Guardian. When Tess and I were discussing what makes good rom-coms good, she said:
If you're writing one, make sure you’ve got something to say about life, or love. Why do you want to write a rom-com? Figure that out. What’s going to make it interesting, funny, and new? Find the truth of what you want to write about.
And apropos, here’s what Tess has to say about the title of the film and what it all means:
I had a load of other alternative titles… I think the worst one was ‘Boy Doesn’t Meet Girl’ ha, and then one day, when I was struggling with writing the script, I remember thinking what is this film ABOUT, Tess, and then I laughed out loud, because I realized it was about me manning up, in life and love in general, and then I thought, Man Up… THAT’S IT. Because both [leads] Nancy and Jack have to man up, you know? And some of the other characters, in their own little ways, too. It’s a film about taking chances, and getting outside your comfort zone. And also, I wanted to reclaim that phrase a bit, from the traditional male and macho kind of thing, because I just like it as a phrase, and we should all be able to use it.
And that’s from an, um, exclusive (i.e. a recent e-mail). Meanwhile, if you're a screenwriter and you'd like to join Tess and me in geeking out about what the big beats of a romantic comedy are meant to be, here's a nifty BAFTA clip in which Tess explains it all for you.
So is your interest properly piqued? I hope so, because Man Up is not a big studio movie, and would benefit from your support. And also (take my word for it or don’t – here’s an enthusiastic review from the L.A. Times) because it’ll make you laugh, and could even make you tear up a bit. And that’s what all of us want from a romantic comedy, if you ask me. Not that I know anything about such stuff.
Go see for yourself.