Lost Hours: Forgetting to Stop Watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall

There are some movies that pop on the telly and you can’t turn away.  You know what I’m talking about.  We’re not talking about The Godfather or In Bruges or even Step Brothers.  I mean the movies you flip to, know you should probably do something else, yet you’re glued.  For one scene.  Then another. You can’t seem to quit.  You know this ‘film’ may not truly be worth a second, fourth, thirtieth time (guilty).  Suddenly it’s a half hour later and you’re well on your way to forgetting about your homework, the dishes, or whatever task should really be your focus.  You’ve seen it, you know it’s silly/bad/laughable/straight-to-dvd yet you keep coming back – and not quite sure why you adore movies like this. 
 
Sometimes movies like this are tied to a piece of nostalgia you cannot quite place.  Sometimes you can’t help love the sappiness (Serendipity?  Anyone?  Anyone?).  Maybe the movie is a delightful misstep for a beloved actor.  Maybe you just want to see some explosions and a kickass hero beat someone up.  Call them what you will, ‘Guilty pleasures’ seems too simplified.  The connection is something else.  Not really ‘good’ but also not necessarily ‘bad’, there’s a comfort in those lost hours. That comfort is not a feeling anyone should feel guilty about. 

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
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There may or may not have been an approximately monthlong stretch in which I watched the bulk of this movie 8-12 times. I didn’t usually watch all 111 minutes (or 411, if it was being shown on the commercial whore that is FX), but I simply could not stop flipping to it every time the title flashed before me. To quickly sum up, Jason Segel’s Peter goes to Hawaii in an effort to move on from a breakup with Kristen Bell’s titular character (who is also pretty much Kristen Bell), only to discover that she has also planned a vacation there…with her rocker boyfriend Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). It may sound trite or corny, and maybe it is, but for some reason this movie pulls you in every single time, becoming more than the forgettable romantic dramedy which it appears to be on paper. This movie surpasses our other “Lost Hours” favorites in quality and at least equals them in rewatchability, and it will never disappoint.

 

As is always the case, one of the simplest ways to a memorable movie is having great actors do great things. Here, the wonderful cast does not so much do great things as be great people, namely themselves. Bell and Segel seem to be pretty much themselves, and Brand, Paul Rudd, and Jonah Hill chip in with performances very much within their comfort zone. Everyone plays to their strengths, with Bill Hader as Peter’s dorky friend and Jack McBrayer stepping in as his uberweird self. Before Aldous Snow offended multitudes of people in Get Him to the Greek, he was serenading Sarah Marshall at Jason Segel’s behest. Paul Rudd only shows up for a short while, but he manages to bring his usual self-effacing everyman to his role as the worst surfing instructor ever. He only adds to Peter’s emotional confusion, spewing out lines like “When life gives you lemons, just say f$%# the lemons and bail” instead of the expected romantic wisdom. Likewise, Hill makes his presence felt in brief moments, adding to Peter’s fear that everyone has left him, moving away and towards Aldous Snow.

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Perhaps this is why the movie stands out among other similar fare. Peter leaves the horrors of home for the beauty of the islands only to find growing tides of dissent rising up against him along the Pacific shores. Segel is so masterful in his long-faced hopelessness, and Mila Kunis so believable in her adoration and pity, that their saving of one another seems to come about organically, just as real and perchance as Sarah Marshall being at the same resort in the first place. Surrounded by weirdos and nymphomaniacs, Peter remains astoundingly normal; he does not make grand romantic gestures or follow the path of romcom heroes before him, refusing Sarah’s advances and wallowing in a terribly unexciting and pitiful manner. Even as his presence wears down Aldous and Sarah’s relationship, he persists in seeking a new love.

As you can tell, FSM is not The Notebook or Sweet Home Alabama. Much like (500) Days of Summer and unlike most of our mainstream romantic films, this one redeems an individual’s ability to get their life back together not in order to woo the lost lover but to leave them behind. Segel and Kunis escape the Hawaiian paradise in which we expected them to rekindle lost loves and end up in a wintry city where they need each other’s warmth (and puppets) to survive. We don’t get to see them happy years down the road. We just get to see Jason Segel naked again, comforting us by showing that he’s capable of moving on.

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I can’t believe I just thought so hard about this movie. To keep it simple, it’s super entertaining. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch it four more times.

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About Author: Brian McMahon

Brian is an author and co-founder of GoodWillWatching. He likes to write and is deathly afraid of bugs. His Great American Novel, not yet titled or existent, will be shocking the world some time or another. He once stayed up for two days straight because of poor information regarding the arrival of Halley’s Comet, which was not due for approximately 57 years. You can follow him @bm1313 on Twitter, or in real life from a safe distance.

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