Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Forgetting Sarah Marshall ★★★★★

A romantic comedy that manages to be one of the best ever romantic recovery comedies, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a remarkably honest and hilarious look at breaking up and the rebuilding that occurs after the heartbreak. The film is a pure comedy, but, under its smartly silly wit, good-natured raunch, and musical outlandishness, beats a knowing, heavy, and, eventually, jubilant heart.

Directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Jason Segel, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" focuses on the aftermath of a breakup between Kristin Bell's Sarah Marshall and Segel's Peter Bretter. Leaving Bretter devastated, the breakup finds the musician looking for ways to mend his broken heart. Jetting to Hawaii, Bretter winds up at the same resort at his former paramour where all manner of comedic shenanigans break loose.

There is a heightened goofiness to those shenanigans, but they never feel forced or silly for the sake of silliness. Moreover, the entire narrative is grounded in a sense of weighty heartache. The film itself is never truly melancholy, but it recognizes the personal magnitude of romantic loss and underscores the laughter with fully felt, if momentary, sadness.

Segel's script is perceptive and smart enough to place the blame for the breakup at the feet of both parties involved. Though the film casts Bretter as heart-trounced protagonist, he is as much to blame in the disintegration of the relationship as Marshall. This presents a refreshing and impressive honesty that gives the film a genuine soul.

Conversely, the film's heart takes flight as Bretter finds a friend in Mila Kunis' Rachel Jansen. Leading Bretter out of the post-breakup mire, she represents a future unencumbered by the past and a stirring sense of recovery.

The production, alternating between an overcast and sundrenched look, bounces through scene and comic set-piece with Stoller building a sweet and sour energy from the comedy and somewhat silly sadness. That energy pulses with a swaying, rhythmic sensibility, Stoller and Segel actually crafting musical scenes that are sweetly goofy and invitingly outrageous.

Stoller's cast is excellent. Segel portrays a sadsack with aplomb, and Bell is a delight. Russell Brand, as Marshall's new boyfriend, Aldous Snow, is a hilarious counterpoint to Bretter and plays his part with an impressive cool. Kunis, managing a role that is as much a symbol as it is a real person, is glorious. A supporting cast that includes Paul Rudd, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Jack McBrayer, Maria Thayer and Jonah Hill is sturdily placed and gleefully funny.

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is, quite simply, terrific. As hilarious as it is fully felt, the film boasts a delightful cast and a story the recognizes all of the emotions involved with its subject matter. A comedy about falling apart and picking up the pieces, the blend of naughtiness, nuttiness, and niceness, along with notes of sorrow, results in an experience that is stirringly and sometimes hilariously inspiring.

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