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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

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Just one of the many Forgetting Sarah Marshall ads that have been seen around New York City over the last few weeks:

They others all have the same tone.

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  • JT

    These are all over Chicago too, particularly on the tops of taxi cabs. I think they make the guy, the Jason Segel character in the movie, look pretty pathetic with these weak jabs at Sarah Marshall because he’s broken hearted. I dunno, though. I haven’t seen the movie, but I will be on Friday. Looks like another great one from the Apatow crew.

  • Rick B.

    He’s SUPPOSED to look pathetic – every preview for the movie makes this abundantly clear.

    MaryAnn – I agree with your reviews much more often than I disagree, but your “Apatow blind spot” is showing, again. You really should just ignore his movies for a while, as they clearly don’t speak to you in any way, and your readers know that you go in with much less than an open mind.

    I’m not saying that “FSM” will be flawless (though I have liked what I’ve seen from the previews, for whatever that’s worth), but there has to be a better use of your time and talents than sitting through a movie you are virtually certain to hate, then writing a review that will only confirm to your readers that you still don’t like the Apatow gang.

  • MaryAnn

    your “Apatow blind spot” is showing, again

    I don’t think it’s a blind spot. Because I disagree with how he celebrates modern American malehood, I’m blind?

  • Spencer

    I think what he’s saying is not that you’re blind in general, but that your negative assessment of his celebration of “modern American malehood” prevents you from appreciating what’s beyond that premise, just like the frame of a car prevents you from seeing what’s beyond it.

    For my part, I’m very much looking forward to seeing FSM, as I am looking forward to reading your review of it. It’s funny: the Apatow-related movies you like, I don’t (i.e., Talledega Nights, Walk Hard). The ones you hate, I like (i.e., Knocked Up, 40-Year Old Virgin). The only one we agree on is Superbad. Truly awful.

    Personally, I don’t see his movies as being about “modern American malehood”, broadly construed. I see them being about only the sect of them which the movies portray: namely, slacker boy-men. Insofar as your reviews focus on the limitations of this perspective, I’m right on board. However, I think you overgeneralize when you read into it a commentary on all modern American males. Insofar as this is what Rick B. meant by “blind spot,” I’m on board with him.

  • MaryAnn

    I think the wild popularity of Apatow’s recent movies suggest that he is striking a nerve with a significant percentage of the audience.

    your negative assessment of his celebration of “modern American malehood” prevents you from appreciating what’s beyond that premise

    Isn’t that like saying, If I liked the movie more, I’d like the movie more?

  • MBI

    I’d have to see the movie to evaluate whether the joke is that the bitch deserves it or that whatshisface there is a total loser who needs to get over it. I wish I could tell from the trailer, but the trailer seems to consist entirely of superfluous gags that are really really not funny. And I say that as an Apatow defender; that’s a terrible fucking trailer.

  • Spencer

    If “let’s laugh along with a slacker stoner guy who hasn’t grown up yet” is all there is to the movie, then yes, that is a tautology.

    However, I think there are more to the movies than that, and I believe it is possible (just my subjective opinion, like always) that your dislike of the main premise (i.e., a glimpse into that sect of masculinity) is strong enough that it is inhibiting your appreciation of what might be a purpose of the movie beyond the surface of that premise. Actually, I realize I could have chosen better words: the “stoner slacker man-child” motif is actually the setting– the underlying raison d’etre of the movie is the premise.

    For example, with “40…”, it is arguable that the premise beyond the setting is an argument for abstinence (or, at least, to wait to give it up until someone truly special comes along). In “Knocked Up,” it is arguable that the premise beyond the setting is a celebration of the vagaries of relationships and a look at unexpected pregnancy in a different– i.e., positive– light. Both of these themes are what the mass of critics have seen in the movies, and while I don’t think you are missing this, I think your position is that the setting obscures and/or negates these themes– particularly the only partially-sublimated misogyny inherent in that setting.

    If I read your objection right, I can see where you are coming from, but I just don’t come to the same conclusion. The main reason for this is simply that the stoner slacker man-child characters are either 1) changed in the end (i.e., Knocked Up), or 2) left to their own devices without outright condemnation but also without much hope for their success– certainly not on the level of the hero (i.e., Paul Rudd in “Knocked Up” and Romany Malco in “40…”). It is obvious that Apatow shares an affinity with and sympathy for that sect of masculinity. However, I think his movies attempt to penetrate the superficial aspects of that sect and find both their innate positive side and a way out to avoid their inevitable negative consequences.

    It is this underlying subtext and premise which I think it is possible you are unable to appreciate due to your reaction against the setting. Aagain, I don’t think you’re blind to it; just that the setting obfuscates its positive nature for you. I agree with the post above: it will remain to be seen, pending viewing, if FSM follows this “deeper” pattern, or if it is merely superficial wallowing in misogyny.

  • MaryAnn

    the trailer seems to consist entirely of superfluous gags that are really really not funny

    Well, then, that’s an accurate representation of the movie.

  • Spencer

    Well, I’ve seen the movie and will reserve specifics until your review is posted, but I enjoyed it.

    Regarding the ad campaign, I think it misreprsents the tone and intent of the movie. I found VERY little Sarah Marshall hating in the movie, and what there was could easily be attributed to perfectly natural feelings of hurt and confusion after a 5-year relationship ending (from his initial perspective) without warning… and there being someone else right on the heels of it. I’m pretty confident that a few negative remarks are understandable in the circumstances, and not at all indicative of misogyny or a low opinion of women in general.

    So, I don’t know who came up with the ad campaign, but it really misrepresents the movie in my opinion. It wouldn’t be the first time a movie was similarly mismanaged in order to play to the lowest common denominator (Fight Club comes to mind as an example), in this way filling the seats and trusting (or hoping) the audience to get the true point of the story (which, I think, is fairly unambiguously positive).

  • JT

    I feel angry at the ad campaign now, because I thought it made the movie look funny. It was awful, it really was. A bunch of half-cooked, lame gags improvised by people who think they’re hilarious. Except for Paul Rudd – everyone was pretty much terrible. And who are they kidding thinking they know how to write for female characters.


    There is just no way any women as hot as Rachel or Sarah would go for a pathetic slob like Peter except in the fantasies of people like Jason Segel, who coincidentally wrote the script. And Sarah, who actually started out interesting turns into a mess at the end, as she’s pleading with Peter and willing to suck his dick to get him hard, but he’s not getting hard because he has a conscience and something doesn’t feel right and he gets out of there. So he goes and tells Rachel the truth because that’s just the kind of honest guy that he is, he’s not like the other assholes out there. She immediately tells him to fuck off because women are like that, they’re jealous, irrational morons. But wait, wait, he gets a picture of her from the bar, even though he gets beaten up for it. It proves nothing, but he does it anyway because he wants to prove that he loves her. And she comes craaaaaawling back to him.

    Oh, shut the fuck up. Fuck off, Jason Segel, with your pathetic fucking half-written every guy’s fantasy limp dick of a movie.

  • Spencer

    Wow! Such animosity.

    I can’t believe that you’ve never seen two people walking down the street and wondered “What does she see in him?” Just as guys can make really poor relationship choices, girls do the same. I can’t begin to count the number of female friends I have who are “hot” and who date absolute morons who hardly make the smallest overtures of courtesy and kindness. Social psychology has conclusively shown in multiple studies how women tend to define attractiveness primarily by personality characteristics, whereas men tend to define it by physical characteristics first and foremost. So it should be MORE believable that a “hot” woman will date a guy of at best moderate looks but good personality, when compared with dating a guy of good to great looks with a terrible personality. And yet the latter case is rampant in experience. So I can’t see how the situation is just a “limp dick” male fantasy. Sure, it’s a fantasy: it does not follow that it is necessarily JUST a fantasy.

    The same applies to Sarah’s eventual capitulation. Have you never had any female friends who think they’ve made a mistake in a guy they’ve broken up with and then go to incredible lengths to get him to come back? For that matter, have you never known any guys who have done the same? And of course, as conventional wisdom has it, the best way to a man’s heart is through his penis. So given the context, both the capitualation itself and the method utilized are by no means unusual.

    Now the desirability of such an act is another question entirely. But of course, the audience is never supposed to think of Sarah Marshall as the paragon of womanhood. I will grant you this point: her character was not very well-drawn, either in its depth or its breadth. However, to say that only a pathetic person would crawl back on those terms is to miss the point: SM, in that moment, is pathetic, and it is Peter’s awareness of that at least in part which leads him to reject the fantasy picture of her he had in his mind, which was full of Hallmark moments and none of her flaws. So you disliked her– isn’t that usually the intended response to an antagonist in a movie?

    As for Rachel’s response, I cannot possibly see how you can consider her as “crawling back to him” without doing violence to what is in the movie or reading in a good deal more than what is there. She never apologized, which in and of itself ought to remove from consideration any suspicion of “crawling back.” She had other motives besides him, such as going back to school. Hardly puny and pathetic behavior. Her demeanor was awkward, but not at all pleading or begging. She laughed at him naked, for God’s sake! If you’re crawling back, that’s the last thing you do. I could continue on how I feel you missed the intended point of the picture and the BJ reaction, but space and common sense advise against it. I feel it is likely that in all three cases, you commit the same error of substituting a loaded word for a descriptive one, when the latter is more proper in the context of the movie. She RETURNED to him– that is the only conclusion I can see supported by the evidence.

  • amanohyo

    Remember Rick and Spencer, MA liked Walk Hard quite a lot, which Apatow produced and cowrote. He only produced Sarah Marshall, so I think it’s fair to expect that she’ll judge the film on its own merits as she tries to do in all her reviews.

    I remember not so long ago when Talladega Nights went from a “dreading” spot on the bias-meter to a green light review. So it’s definitely possible for a movie that she’s not initially thrilled about to redeem itself in the theater.

    Anyway, it seems kind of premature to make preemptive counterpoints for a review that hasn’t even been posted yet. The red light doesn’t mean diddly until I understand her rationale, which is usually pretty specific.

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