A woman takes a chance and ends up impersonating someone else to go on a blind date.
Man Up sees a love-lorn 34 year-old (you hear her age a lot) steal a blind date in the form of recent divorcee Simon Pegg. He’s 40, you’ll also hear that a lot.
They do some datey things, have some drinks and drop movie references to things like Wall Street and The Silence of the Lambs. It’s all going so well but how can she tell him that it’s actually kind of a lie!?
The plot sounds utterly generic and you kind of suspect that the film would be too if it had come out of the Hollywood rom-com farm but, against all odds, Man Up is a bit of a charmer.
But it’s not really clear how it happened. Sure director Ben Palmer has some form with his work on the Inbetweeners TV show and movie but the script is from first time feature writer Tess Morris. Simon Pegg is good value but isn’t quite hitting it out of the park here.
What it boils down to I think is a solid grounding and an intense sense of Englishness on the one hand, and a fiercely brilliant central performance by Lake Bell.
Let’s get this out of the way first off – Bell is not English. She’s an American born and raised in New York who never lived on this side of the pond. But her accent is bloody brilliant. Sure if you know she’s not a local and you’re listening to every syllable it might occasionally sound a little forced but it really is almost flawless.
She’s also a great comedy talent, with a real sense of the kind of awkward Brit comedy the film is going for and top timing and delivery. She bounces off Pegg well and really elevates his game, while the films focus on her let’s her play with some varying emotions and tones.
She’s basically terrific and supported by some really strong minor turns from the likes of Ken Stott and Ophelia Lovibond. Surprisingly it’s Rory Kinnear who almost manages to steal the show as a creepy character from her past. It’s a bizarre, cracked and totally hilarious performance from an actor better known for his serious roles.
The film looks a bit cheap and cheerful at times but flits by in less than 90 minutes, serving up some solid twists on the rom-com format. And I forgot to mention that it’s also very funny at times, underscored by a piteous but realistic take on dating in your 30s.
It’s also that rare film which really earns its inevitable big moment, ramping up to one of the more satisfying (and possibly tear-jerking) conclusions I’ve experienced in awhile.
In short, it’s fun and sweet and clichéd and silly and more than a little bit mad and it’s well worth a look, even if you’re not normally a massive rom-com fan.