Romantic Comedy, 88 Minutes, 2015
We’ve known from the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy that Simon Pegg [IMDB] could play an everyday schlub, an uptight cop and a washed-up has been. So far, during Peggapalooza!, we’ve also seen him as an eccentric paranoid and right dirty bastard. The man has range! The question here is: can he play a romantic lead?
Spoiler: sure he can!
That said, it must be admitted that the rom-com formula isn’t all that difficult to understand. Charming people, a misunderstanding or two, a dramatic downturn and some soul searching all capped off with a grand gesture. The formula is simple, but does have a tendency to produce mediocrity. When predictability is a given, you need to be at the top of the game everywhere else.
Nancy (the too-often underrated Lake Bell [IMDB]) is a mid-thirties single woman who’s being pressured to find a man. She’s on the way to her parent’s 40th anniversary party when Jack (Pegg) mistakes her for his blind date. Taking a shine to his nervous blather, she fails to correct him. They have some wacky misadventures and, eventually, the truth comes out. Sad music plays. Then there’s some more wacky misadventures and the required grand gesture. The music swells.
It’s cliched, predictable and so damn good.
The chemistry between Pegg and Bell is sincere and mature and both of them, in their fumbling, broken ways, are god-damn adorable. You not only root for them to make it, you want to send them a toaster for the wedding. The script plays with all of the tired rom-com tropes, but never breaks them. It’s warm, comfortable and keeps you pleasantly on your toes without succumbing to the hubris of dreary-realism or twist endings.
Being a British film, it’s wonderfully willing to accept an adult rating in exchange for allowing people to talk and act like… people. They say words that begin with “F”, talk about sex and look at each other’s butts. Like big-damn grown ups. It compares very favorably to the also adult-rated, but equally charming, Love Actually [IMDB].
The story is authentic and grounded despite the comedic coincidences and exaggerations. Both Pegg and Bell deliver wonderful, emotional performances as does the entire supporting cast. The script is crisp, smart and truly, laugh-out-loud funny. This isn’t just “good for a rom-com”, this is just good.