- Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) movie review: One man’s disastrous romantic heartbreak becomes great comedy fodder in director Nicholas Stoller’s clever and well-acted feature debut from a screenplay by star Jason Segel.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall movie review: Remembering there’s humor in other people’s disasters of the heart
Nicholas Stoller’s directorial feature debut, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is a romantic-disaster comedy – at a time brilliantly funny and tragically sad.
Jason Segel – who also is credited for the screenplay – is Peter Bretter, a man so in love with his beautiful TV-star girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), that he believes his world has fallen apart when she suddenly dumps his sorry arse.
To escape his pain, Peter takes an impromptu trip to Oahu’s luxurious Turtle Bay, where he finds himself simultaneously in Hawaiian heaven and break-up hell upon running into Sarah and her British rock-star boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), who are staying in the same hotel.
To forget Sarah Marshall, Peter attempts to lose himself in cocktails, sobbing fits, and a seemingly innocent flirtation with the beautiful resort employee Rachel Jansen (Mila Kunis). As Peter is forced to witness his ex’s new relationship, he finds relief in new friends and, eventually, in a new outlook on life.
Jason Segel bares all
The dark comedy of Peter’s personal disaster is both hilarious and raunchy. The viewer is torn between feeling Peter’s despair and wanting to tell him to suck it up and be a man.
However, even the hardest moments in Peter’s saga are cleverly masked with comedy. For instance, Stoller shoots several full-frontal nude shots of Segel during Peter and Sarah’s breakup, making these moments awkward, hilarious, and pathetically sad all at once.
In fact, the filmmaker brings the breakup full circle at the film’s close, again shooting a nude Segel, but this time with the hope of a potential new love.
Supportive supporting characters
Another Forgetting Sarah Marshall plus is that each of the supporting characters has a specific backstory, in addition to a personality that is both unique and laugh-out-loud funny.
Examples include an extremely religious newlywed who doesn’t know how to sexually please his new bride, a wannabe vying for Aldous Snow’s attention, and a stoner surfer who prefers his Hawaiian name, Kunu.
While Peter remains stuck in his worst nightmare, the other characters provide continuous comedic relief while supporting him on his quest to finally leave Sarah Marshall behind.
Although Forgetting Sarah Marshall depicts the Peter-Sarah breakup primarily from the male’s point of view, there is a sense of raw honesty in the script when Sarah finally tells Peter her side of the story.
At that point we learn not only that Peter is hardly an innocent victim, but that Sarah Marshall can be both hateable and lovable. In their messed-up – and multidimensional – situation, each person is trying to do the best they can.
Most pleasant surprise
But ultimately, the most pleasant surprise in Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the disappearance of scenes that had been beaten to death in the commercial build-up prior to the movie’s release. There is no “You do look fat in those jeans, Sarah Marshall” declaration, or cracks about Peter being a loner.
That’s because many of the clips used in the advertising campaign wound up on the cutting-room floor, thus allowing the film proper to retain a sense of freshness and comedic surprise.
With a talented cast of comedians, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a thoroughly honest look at the reality of post-breakup heartache and an amusing luau not to forget.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Director: Nicholas Stoller.
Screenplay: Jason Segel.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) Movie Review: Comedy of Disasters” review text © Lauren Creamer; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes/endnotes © Alt Film Guide.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) Movie Review” endnotes
Kristen Bell Forgetting Sarah Marshall movie image: Universal Pictures.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) Movie Review: Comedy of Disasters” last updated in September 2021.