Director Ben Palmer’s Man Up strictly follows the romantic-comedy road map, passing through every clichéd trope that has defined the genre.
The pace is full-throttle, but Palmer still finds time for some solid laughs with his charismatic actors. Lake Bell and Simon Pegg play romantically downtrodden Londoners who end up falling in love as a result of a mistaken-identity mix-up during a blind date. Pegg’s comic chops elevate even the most juvenile of jokes, but it’s Bell’s daring and impolite performance that steals the show — even her flawless British accent seems too perfect for Man Up‘s uneven comedy and implausible scenarios.
First-time feature screenwriter Tess Morris’s yarn is predictable, with a particularly sappy ending, but it offers a substantial stock of searing one-liners. As if by comic reflex, Bell and Pegg deliver these barbs at a speed that allows the funny to overpower the flat. Just as in last year’s In a World…, Bell demonstrates her comic range and versatility during a dialed-down bathroom confession scene that she makes funny and tender on a toilet.
Palmer and cinematographer Andrew Dunn blanket London’s nightlife in warm neon and keep the camera moving and cutting fast enough to give the film a throbbing energy-drink-fueled heartbeat. Their gliding, digitally stitched single-take shots and popping match cuts help to break up the lengthy bouts of quippy dialogue with a visual punch.
Directed by Ben Palmer
Opens November 13, Village East Cinema