Man Up movie review: lie cute

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Man Up red light

I hate movies like this, in which it’s meant to be adorable when people lie in the name of love. And I particularly hate what this movie does to Lake Bell.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Lake Bell and Simon Pegg

I’m “biast” (con): not a fan of most romantic comedies

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Nancy is 34 years old. She doesn’t have a boyfriend. This is all we know about her, but honestly, do we really need to know anything else about a woman apart from whether she has done her lady-duty and gotten herself paired off yet? And on the day that she is supposed to be heading to her parents’ 40th-anniversary party, she is distracted by a chance meeting with Jack (Simon Pegg: The Boxtrolls, Hector and the Search for Happiness) at Waterloo railway station in London. Well, it’s not so much a chance meeting: Jack is the guy that Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond: Guardians of the Galaxy, Nowhere Boy), a young woman Nancy met on the train, had arranged to meet for a blind date, but when Jack mistakes Nancy for Jessica and then proves that he is Super Cool by quoting a movie Nancy loves, she has no option but to pretend to Jessica and embark upon an all-day, let’s-run-around-fantasy-London date with him. Literally no other option. What could go wrong? Never mind her parents’ party: her family is inordinately concerned about Nancy’s love life — almost creepily so, in fact — so they’re delighted to presume that she Must Have Met Somebody (what else could delay a single woman?). Also, celebrating such marital bliss is nothing but a slap in the face to the female failure that is Nancy.

I hate movies like this, in which it’s meant to be adorable and kooky when people lie and manipulate in the name of love — because everyone “knows” there are no rules in the rat race of romance; Christ, if you lose that race, you might end up like Nancy. (She mostly seems pretty cool. This would not be a terrible fate. Except the movie thinks it is.) And I hate this particular iteration of the concept with a special vehemence. I love Lake Bell (Mr. Peabody & Sherman, In a World…), and I like her Nancy, but I hate what the film does to her, forcing her deeper into deception out of a pathetic desperation that someone needs to tell her she doesn’t need to feel. Instead, she has to deal with precisely the opposite, people telling her she needs to change, that she’s too “cynical” and that’s why she’s alone, that she’s doing everything in her life wrong. (We actually have no evidence of this whatsoever.) The title, Man Up, is Nancy’s self-help directive to herself. She has “mantras,” like “Engage with life.” Such as stealing another woman’s blind date.

What did she think was going to happen? How did she think this was going to end? Do all her ideas about people come from rom-coms like this one? Did I say I like Nancy? I might have to take that back.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Man Up for its representation of girls and women.

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Thu, May 28, 2015 7:26pm

OH, NO!!!!!

Thu, May 28, 2015 8:55pm

My biastnesses here are the same as yours. From the trailer I thought it might be salvageable, but that central decision by Nancy was all too obvious.

Fri, May 29, 2015 8:25pm

not a rom-com fan, but am a simon pegg fan and he actually looks kind of cute here. so, this one’s out too.

Jessica Simpson
Jessica Simpson
Sun, May 31, 2015 1:45pm

You *love* Simon Pegg? You’ve red-lit and bottom-ranked like so many of this movies, how? He’s only funny when he’s given a good script (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) but other than that, he’s complete shit. What’s there to love?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jessica Simpson
Sun, May 31, 2015 7:15pm

Pegg has still yet to lose the cred he earned with Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz.

Yeah, I still love him. That doesn’t mean — clearly — that I automatically love everything he does. It does mean that I walk into all of his movies hoping that they’re great.