I watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall for the umpteenth time tonight, and I swear, it just might be the most underrated comedy of all time. The film follows the story of sad sack Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) as he desperately tries to get over Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), his longtime girlfriend who has recently left him for an English rock star. In a last-ditch effort to get her out of his heart, he takes a vacation to beautiful Hawaii, only to discover that she and her rock star boyfriend are also vacationing there. Hijinks ensue.
On the surface, one might easily dismiss the film as a formulaic Hollywood rom-com replete with just enough sophomoric humor to satiate the masses, but the truth of the matter is that this movie is so much more than that. First of all, everyone (and I mean everyone) is brilliant in this movie–even Russell Brand. The casting is (surprisingly) perfect. But even more surprising is that this is a smart film. Sure, there’s some crude and vulgar humor in the movie, but guess what? Life itself is both crude and vulgar. And even the basest elements of the film still manage to be at once both clever and hilarious, as is the trademark of most Judd Apatow films. But what separates this script from any of Apatow’s other productions is the fact that it was written by Jason Segel himself, and Segel wrote one gem of a screenplay. It seems clear to me that Segel wrote this movie from the heart without any consideration of or concern for what the box office might think, in very much the same way as his character writes his Dracula musical in the film. It’s easy to tell when something is created out of love or passion rather than commercial interests. This film was a labor of love for Segel, and it shows.
At its core, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is not just a funny film–it is an unabashedly moving motion picture that touches on the frailty of the human heart and the indescribable pain of getting over a lost love. In my mind, the best comedies are those which make us think and feel as well as laugh–something deeper than slapstick–and beneath all the clever jokes and funny moments, Forgetting Sarah Marshall manages to successfully address the human condition in a way that few comedies have been able to: uncontrived and honest. And I swear, I pick up something new every time I see it. Tonight it was the moment where a very large Hawaiian dude gives Peter (Jason Segel) advice about moving on:
“You’ve got to stop talking about her. It’s like The Sopranos–it’s over! Find a new show!” [pause] “You need a hug. C’mere.”
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite scenes from the movie. There are so many scenes in this film worth sharing, but if I had to choose just one, it would be this one: