Bridget Jones has grown up, lost weight, dropped the dopey posh voice and, best of all, found some chutzpah.
American actress Lake Bell was until now 13 years into a largely unremarkable movie career. (To be fair, she won several awards for the indie flick In a World which she wrote, directed and starred in, but a far larger audience will have not noticed her in films such as It’s Complicated). From now on, however, thanks to her unexpected casting in this British rom-com (from the director of The Inbetweeners Movie but way better) she should have quality film roles bashing down her door.
Adopting a flawless English accent with the intonation of Kristin Scott Thomas, Bell plays 34-year old Nancy Paterson, a single girl fatigued by a life of cringy blind dates which showcase her verbal diarrhoea and knack for clever but awkward puns. In the cutest of meet-cutes, Nancy accidentally meets Simon Pegg’s equally single Jack, and before she can protest that she’s not the girl he’s looking for, they’re in a bar chugging tequila and having a brilliant time.
Cue a series of near-reveals and a growing strength of connection as the couple hop from bowling alley to dance floor, encountering various ghosts from their past en route (the usually po-faced Rory Kinnear finally gets to break type as the utterly vile school chum whose recollection of Nancy’s teenage years is hilariously creepy).
This is screenwriter Tess Morris’ debut feature, and her script is absolutely sensational – it’s fast and well-choreographed as an effortlessly natural Bell and Pegg volley zesty lines which well understand the contemporary predicament of 30-something singledom. Their chemistry is infectious and even the brief moments of slapstick (which this reviewer normally abhors) are enjoyably, laugh-out-loud squirm-inducing.
Despite its terrible title and an unjustly bog-standard trailer, Man Up is only as mildly predictable as you want it to be and utterly delightful from beginning to end.