Man Up (2015) – reviewed by George

I’m a real sap for a good rom-com, and good to me means I like the leads and at least one-third of the film is com. By my standards this is one of the best. It was written by Tess Morris and directed by Ben Palmer.
Two women on a commuter train start a conversation. The 26-year-old, Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond), is perky and positive. The 34-year-old, Nancy (Lake Bell), is cool but world-weary, even somewhat depressed. Jessica keeps quoting from a currently popular self-help book, too young to know that the solutions in the book will be replaced by something new in a few years. They disagree politely, but when Jessica leaves, Nancy finds that Jessica has left the book and a note – a “read this cause you really need it” sort of note.
Nancy gets off the train determined to give the book back to Jessica, and in the station she stands under the big ceiling clock looking around for her. Jack (Simon Pegg) pops up and starts talking, making no real sense. BUT that’s because he sees a woman standing under the agreed-upon clock holding the agreed-upon book (he’s holding a copy too), and thinks this is his blind date Jessica, who is actually in the train-station shop buying another copy of the book.
As soon as she gets what is going on, Nancy, still depressed and acting against Jessica’s opinion of her, pretends to be Jessica and goes on the date, which is essentially a journey through their past lives and their fears of relationships, which always turn out badly, a very funny journey through old mistakes and old lovers and old attitudes. And we meet some of their mistakes: one of Nancy’s old boyfriends Sean (Rory Kinnear), who still loves her and tries to sabotage Jack, and Jack’s very-soon-to-be ex-wife Hilary (Olivia Williams) and her new boyfriend Ed (Stephen Campbell Moore) – very disdainful toward Jack and Nancy. And since that day is Nancy’s parents’ 40th anniversary we eventually get to the party where Nancy is expected to make a speech about the happy marriage of her parents Fran and Bert (Harriet Walter and Ken Stott), which is actually a normal marriage, meaning sometimes happy and sometimes contentious, but underneath all that, almost always loving.
By the end of the “date” they know the truth about their identities and are ready to try this new relationship – and Jessica finds them. This is really funny and happy and touching and sad too. It’s an intelligent film with appealing actors and a charmingly worked-out finish.
I really enjoyed this one.

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