In some ways this is a very familiar film, and yet even Richard Curtis can’t always seem to get it right, so it’s nice to see an example which works — a film both consistently funny, and not patronisingly dishonest about its characters or the contours of their romance (at least, for the most part). This, however, is not an assessment I had taken from the trailer, in which Simon Pegg’s Jack just seems like a massive dick to his mistaken-blind date and putative love interest Nancy (played by American comic actor Lake Bell). What you discover on actually watching the film is that, yes, he does act that way, but it’s contextualised within a sort of mid-life crisis he’s going through. The film (and Nancy) crucially doesn’t let him get away with his childish acting out, and his character ends up expressing some self-awareness and regret about his shallowness — too often, romcoms seem to excuse these kinds of blatant character defects as charming quirks, to be accepted in time and through love. I mean, you still have to accept that this is a film that follows a well-worn mould of heteronormativity, about people who are relationship-obsessed, but within that context it’s all very charming. Lake Bell convinces with her accent and is a likeable lead, and even the harsher edges of Rory Kinnear’s deranged stalker character are almost neutered through the sheer force of the film’s comedy. It’s all put together with straightforward craft, even if some of the transitions ring my London geography alarm bells (the exit to the Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes is in… Soho?), but it’s the writing and performances that carry it. Though there’s always one thing I never understand about this genre of films, which is how the protagonists’ friends are always such ridiculous twits; I remain glad that I’ve never been to any parties like the one which opens the film.
Director Ben Palmer; Writer Tess Morris; Cinematographer Andrew Dunn; Starring Lake Bell, Simon Pegg, Rory Kinnear; Length 88 minutes.
Seen at Cineworld Wood Green, London, Wednesday 10 June 2015.