If, like me, you are always tragically hoping for romantic comedies to meet their potential, this one’s for you.
Man Up is a just-about-perfect rom-com. I loved it. I wanted to eat it like a cupcake. It does everything I ever hope a rom-com will do: It tickles you with witty banter, churns along with great dialogue, hooks into the pleasure of romantic tension between two people, breaks your heart a little, puts the difference between “alone” and “together” into stark relief, and gives you all the delightful feelings of falling in love.
It’s in some cities in theaters right now–but it’s also for rent to stream on Amazon. Watch it tonight. I promise–you’ll be so glad you did.
- This lonely moment on the train.
There are real stakes in this movie. There are moments that linger on isolation, and disappointment, and feeling lost and alone. Pay attention, movie world! Romantic comedies should never just be comedies! The story has to have moments of genuine sorrow to give weight and meaning to the act of finding love.
- This adorable man.
Possibly the cutest rom-com dad ever. Celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary, he toasts his wife, and says: “We probably won’t make it another forty years–” And she jumps in and says, “I bloody hope not!” He concludes: “But here’s to spending whatever time we have left together.”
- Lines like: “Congratulations on your massive pack of lies.”
- Simon Pegg cries.Twice.
What does Brené Brown keep telling us about vulnerability? “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.” It’s also the birthplace of all kinds of goodness in a romantic comedy. Simon Pegg full-out cries for a long scene in this movie–snurfly, nose-wiping tears. And guess what? It works. I’m trying to think of the last time I saw a man cry in any movie–other than Adam Sandler, for yuks. American rom-coms have been acting too tough of late: leaving out all the raw emotions, the vulnerability, and the bravery that should course through movies like this. Man Up is not afraid to go all-in, and the tenderness makes the story matter.
- Lake Bell does NOT cry. Much. Okay, she cries a little.
She holds it together most of the time–but the way she holds it together, despite disappointment after disappointment, makes you root for her. You’re RIGHT THERE with her. One of her goals is to “Put yourself out there.” Man Up shows us just how hard it is for her to do that–and then she does it anyway.
- The Best Bowling-as-Foreplay Montage Ever
Bowling is the best. Why HAVEN’T there been more bowling-themed love montages?
- The Reflex
Does this movie NEED a scene with a dance fight to a Duran Duran song? Not really. Is it a total bonus that it has one? Yep. It’s awesome because of Duran Duran–but it’s also so charmingly comic the way Nancy and Jack’s voices are annoyed but their bodies are having fun. Plus, is this a real dance? Is this something that everybody knows, like the Thriller dance? The minute the song comes on, they both jump in, like, Of course. Did I miss it back in the ‘eighties? Doesn’t matter, I guess. It works. Plus, they’re singing the nonsense lyrics to each other like those lyrics mean something. Just yummy all around.
- The way Jack watches Nancy while she makes up an imaginary sexual history for them in front of his ex-wife.
His face just runs the gamut from concerned to surprised to amused to befuddled to titillated and back again. Great face. And he is really, really listening. And who doesn’t love a man who listens?
- The way it doesn’t insult you.
This is not a rom-com that hates rom-coms. This movie is unapologetically a story about people who would like to find love–and are trying to do just that. These people feel like real people and the choices they make feel like real choices for the real world. There are no jokes about boobies in this movie. There are no pole dances. There are no references to Jonah Hill masturbating. It has a sweetness to it that in today’s movie climate feels very brave.
- The end.
The movie opens with a long tracking shot through a party, and it ends with one, too. The final shot floats along, checking in on all the characters we’ve just met before floating outside and stepping back. The whole movie feels like a love letter to love. It’s a dreamy way to end–tender and sweet–as everybody goes on with their lives. It leaves you with a feeling not that things will never change and we must statically be Happy Ever After from this second forward–but more that life will move on, as it always does, and there will be sorrows and struggles, but there will also be moments of joy worth savoring. For the moment, all is well. I love those moments in life. Don’t you?
Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QgPlqoxu4M
Katherine Center is the author of five novels: The Bright Side of Disaster (2007), Everyone is Beautiful (2009), Get Lucky (2010), The Lost Husband (2013)–just optioned for a movie!–and Happiness for Beginners (2015), with two more on the way. Read more about Katherine here. Or here.