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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008, *)

To promote Forgetting Sarah Marshall, writer-star Jason Segal took to the august pages of the New York Times to advertise the precise number of frames in the comedy’s opening scenes that we are obliged to contemplate his junk: 79, transcribes the Gray Lady. Another innately conservative “shock” comedy from the petseleh.jpgJudd Apatow production line, Forgetting, the début from director Nicholas Stoller (who wrote the script to 2005’s Fun With Dick and Jane remake and three episodes of “Undeclared”) is one of the shaggiest to date. Segal plays Peter, who writes murky music for a “CSI”-like series that stars his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). She dumps him for a British musician, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), which he discovers when he retreats to Hawaii to get over his bawling fits and fits of balling and checks himself into the same hotel. Rachel (Mila Kunis), the pretty desk clerk at the resort helps him beyond the call of duty and they meet-cute, screw-cute and break-up-cute. While other writers have noted Apatow’s fondness for stories about shrubby men who are honey to attracted women, “Sarah Marshall” is the first that approaches levels of misogyny, especially in the way Bell is shot, with inconsistent lighting and angles that accentuate how close her eyes are together, almost akin to the inexplicable tomato hues of Kirsten Dunst’s skin in Spiderman 2. Kunis is only slightly better served, but she holds her own with her level gaze, large green eyes, superb timing and a fine plush pudgy nose. But the reverse angles on Segal are all static-camera stand-ups, the most advanced example of the “Stand there and say shit and say shit and say some more shit” until we run out of time. The camera can’t move while the guys in “Sarah Marshall” are riffing. (An unfunny Bill Heder plays a pal of Peter’s who’s seen almost exclusively on the screen of his laptop). Still, it’s the avowed comedy of the male frontal nudity in four shots and the many perspectives of the tall Segal’s pale chest that exposes the nakedness of the enterprise. (It’s still to be preferred over Mike Myer’s compulsive display of his fishbelly-white rump.) I’m not an opponent of a plethora of petseleh, but it’s almost as unfunny as Peter’s obsession with a puppet musical of “Dracula.” A nudist has to dream, I suppose. (There’s a Segal nude scene in Knocked Up, too.) There’s no double standard, though: there’s at least two sets of perky bared breasts, or mid-fucking midriffs covered with a bedsheet for every fifth glimpse of ample man-boobs. In a way, it’s a high-art homage to Peter Greenaway’s R-rating-buster, Prospero’s Books, which stymied the MPAA censors with its ample acreage of withered man-flesh and Sir John Gielgud’s fallen knob. In the most important way, it’s a comedy with scattered laughs, myriad fetishes and fixations and no small amount of clumsiness.

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One Response to “Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008, *)”

  1. Whitney says:

    Though the film had some cheap laughs for me (usually occurring whenever Paul Rudd spoke) I think I mostly agree with your review. The only thing I question is the reaction to Segal’s nudity that seems to be outrageous to most people who see the film. I guess after years of seeing full-frontal female nudity I’m ready to see a little male junk…not for any nefarious purposes, but merely to even the playing ground. Sarah Marshall certainly doesn’t attempt this (what with the boobies and all) but I just might appreciate the penis shots…I’m still thinking about it…but not too much!

Movie City Indie

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon