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10 Reasons You Need to Go Watch “Man Up” Right Now

December 17, 2015

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.

Here are ten reasons this movie is now in my top rom-coms of all time.

  1. This lonely moment on the train.

OneThere 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.

  1. This adorable man.

twoPossibly 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.”

  1. Lines like:  “Congratulations on your massive pack of lies.”

threeGreat dialogue.  Great banter.  It’s a pleasure to hear, and it creates great chemistry.  Screenwriter Tess Morris rocks it out.  “Massive pack of lies” is my new favorite phrase.

  1. Simon Pegg cries.Twice. 

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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.

  1. Lake Bell does NOT cry.  Much.  Okay, she cries a little.

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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.

  1.  The Best Bowling-as-Foreplay Montage Ever

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Bowling is the best. Why HAVEN’T there been more bowling-themed love montages?

  1. The Reflex

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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.

  1. The way Jack watches Nancy while she makes up an imaginary sexual history for them in front of his ex-wife.

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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?

  1.  The way it doesn’t insult you.

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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.

  1. The end.

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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

Enjoy!

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.

Summer Reading Recommendations from an Award-Winning Author and Storyteller, Katherine Center

June 25, 2015

Part of being a reader is knowing what you like to read. We’re all looking for something when we turn to a book—and it varies a lot from person to person. Some people like the puzzle of a mystery.  Some folks like the heart-thumping anxiety of a suspense novel.  Some like to luxuriate in the exquisite poetry of literary prose. The trick a good read, I think, is knowing what you’re looking for—and then finding it.

Right now, in my life, I’m just looking for great, page-turning, utterly engaging stories that don’t let me go.

I’m looking to feel connected to the characters and to care about them and to root for them. I want to feel like their story matters, and I want to get pulled in—all in—in a page-turning, up-past-bedtime way.  A little bit of comedy is a plus.  Great, snappy dialogue is an even bigger plus.  And I never say no to a delicious love story.  If I can feel inspired, or turn around at the end and look at my own life in a new way, even better.

Here are some books I enjoyed, admired, and could not put down.

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THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

John Green

I might be the last person in America to have read this book, but I just finished, and I loved it too much not to say something.  It’s hardly new—it’s a movie by now, after all.  It’s sad, sad, sad—but satisfying.  The setting, the parameters of the story, the troubles the characters have to deal with?  All heartbreaking.  But there’s comedy, too, and genuine human connection.  You turn the last page and feel changed.  You come out of the story feeling more alive.

 

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ELEANOR & PARK

Rainbow Rowell

There’s an intensity to this story that does not let you go.  It feels so real, so urgent, it’s as if you’re living it with the characters.  The love and connection these two mid-western teenagers in the 1980s find for each other captures the intensity of first love—but the story captures something bigger: the beauty  and power of how people take care of each other.

 

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THE ROSIE PROJECT

Graeme Simsion

This is a story of a university professor who’s not great at reading social cues.  He reads an article about the health benefits of being married and decides to take a wife—by creating a survey to assess potential candidates.  It’s a great premise with lots of comedy—but the thing that hooks you is how engaging he is as a character and how hard he tries.  He gets it wrong over and over, misreads people and does the wrong things, but you are one-hundred percent all in rooting for him like crazy.

 

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ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO

Jonathan Tropper

My brother-in-law gave me this book, saying, “This guy is the male you.”  So that got my attention.  It’s definitely a very guy-ish book—opening, for example, with the main character on his way to make a donation the sperm bank (in contrast to my bedside table reading stack, which tends to be very Ladies’ Nite)—but I felt affection for the main character, rooted for him, and most of all loved stumbling on the story’s many wise insights about life and what it all means.

 

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ME BEFORE YOU

JoJo Moyes

I had this one on my night table for a long time before I tackled it.  People kept saying, “You have to read it! You’re going to cry your face off.”  But the thing was, I didn’t really want to cry my face off.  I didn’t want to get to the end and have to lie on the floor in despair.  So I put it off and put it off.  When I finally opened it up, I read it in a day.  Did I cry my face off?  Nope.  Moyes renders the story so well that everything that happens feels meaningful and right.

 

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A WALK IN THE WOODS

Bill Bryson

An oldie but a goodie.  This is one of my top two Bill Bryson books (along with Made In America).  It’s the story of Bryson, in his forties and out of shape, deciding to walk the Appalachian trial.  An old friend from high school joins him, and this story is equal parts comedy, disaster, terror, camaraderie, and Bryson-esque trivia about anything and everything.  A movie version (with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.  Read) is about to come out.  Read the book first!

Happy Summer Reading!

And read more about Katherine here.  Welcome Katherine!