Man Up (and five of the best films about dating)
In a society where online dating has become the norm, we all know somebody who has found love on the internet, just the same as we all know someone with a horror story or two about the perils of the dating game. One aspect of dating that has become far less common as a result of the online dating phenomenon though is that bastion of pre-internet romantic awkwardness; the blind date. Cilla Black may have made a career out of them, but anyone who has ever been on one will know what a lottery they can be, especially when compared to the relatively risk-free business of selecting a potential partner online; if you don't like what you see, swipe right and move on.
But, whether its online or not, the business of dating has always been fraught with anxiety and awkwardness, which is precisely what makes it such ripe territory for comedy, particularly the romantic variety, and that's exactly the territory that we find Simon Pegg in for his latest starring role.
Written by Tess Morris and directed by Ben Palmer, the man behind shows like The Inbetweeners and Bo' Selecta, Man Up stars Pegg alongside Lake Bell in a quirky romantic comedy whose central premise revolves around one of the key aspects of modern dating: embellishment. Or, in this case, downright dishonesty.
The plot goes something like this: Nancy (Bell) is a 34 year-old single woman whose recent dalliances with the dating game have left her somewhat disillusioned. Her last 10 dates have all been disasters of one type or another and she's beginning to lose hope. But then, while at a train station on her way to attend her parents' wedding anniversary celebrations, she is approached by a 40 year-old divorcee named Jack, who has clearly mistaken her for the blind date he is due to meet under the station's clock.
According to Morris, this is something that actually happened to her once and, like any normal person would, she politely explained that he'd got the wrong girl, but then found herself wondering 'what if I'd said yes?'
That's exactly what Nancy does on the spur of the moment and she suddenly finds herself on a date pretending to be the 24 year-old triathlete that Jack is there to meet. Now, many rom-coms would spin this one out right until the final act, but here the lies unravel pretty quickly and the romantic ambience soon turns to awkwardness and annoyance. But despite Nancy's duplicity there's also a weird sexual tension... could there real attraction here after all?
You have to hand it to Morris and Palmer; romantic comedies can formulaic at best and sickly sweet affairs at worst, but with Man Up they've done something a little smarter than your average rom-com and the on-screen chemistry between Bell and Pegg - along with the clever script - makes this a really entertaining film to watch.
It's out now and you can order it on the right-hand side of the page. You can find the trailer below, beneath that we've picked more of our favourite films about dating (you can order each of them from our online store by clicking on the title)...
Steve Carrell played his darkest role yet in Foxcatcher recently, but he'll always be better known for comedy roles and the one he takes on in The 40 Year-Old Virgin is still one of his funniest. As a middle-aged and sexually inexperienced bachelor working in a store selling electrical goods, Andy finds himself under peer pressure form his work colleagues (Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen and Romany Malco) to 'do the deed'. Andy eventually falls for a woman his own age (Catherine Keener) working in a store across the street, but he's terrified she will reject him because he is a virgin and most of the film's hilarious moments stem from his attempts to keep his inexperience a secret. Judd Apatow's film shows the dating process in all its awkward glory and Carrell does awkward better than anybody.
Jon Favreau is a master of writing heartfelt, humanising scripts and the plot to Swingers will be familiar to many men; Favreu's character Mike broke up with his girlfriend and has spent the last six months down in the dumps, so eventually his friends decide enough is enough and drag him out onto the bar scene to meet new people – which, of course, he hates. Vince Vaughn gives one of his best performances as Mike's buddy Trent, who just won't take no for an answer and eventually Mike starts to meet new women and come out of his shell. Favreau both illustrates the heartbreak of a breakup and the self-pity of a man in a post-relationship rut, but he has a knack for finding comedy in both and this is as heartwarming as it is funny.
The chemistry between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan is what really makes Rob Reiner's 1989 film tick and When Harry Met Sally has become a bit of a classic in the rom-com genre, largely thanks to that scene in the cafe where Sally shows off her... erm... acting skills. Playing two longtime friends who suddenly discover that their feelings for each other are more than platonic, they both fail in various relationships and begin to realise they might be made for each other, but they fear that sex will ruin their friendship. Rob Reiner is a brilliant comedy director and this is one of his best, especially if romantic comedies are your thing.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet burst onto the scene with this charming and quirky romantic comedy about a a socially awkward young woman working in a Parisian cafe. When she discovers a small metal box in her apartment filled with the toys and photos and memories of a young boy left there some 50 years ago, she decides to track down the owner and return it to him. But then she discovers a photo album left in a train station by a young man who the bizarre habit of collecting discard passport photos, and though she intends to return this to him too, she finds himself attracted to him, but too shy to approach him. Instead, she lays a sort of treasure hunt with clues to find the album, as well as her. Don't let the fact that it's in French with subtitles put you off, give this a chance and you'll fall in love with it.
Our last pick stars the late Heath Ledger alongside Julia Styles in this rom-com meets coming-of-age film directed by Gil Junger. Ledger stars as Patrick, a new kid at a school who has a crush on a girl, but there's a problem – her father insists that she isn't allowed to date any guys until her older sister is dating too, and her older sister just happens to the meanest, most unpopular girl in the school. If Patrick ever wants to date the girl of his dreams, he's going to have to find someone brave enough – or stupid enough – to go out with her sister. It's actually based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, believe it or not, but as teen / rom-com movies go, this is about as good as it gets.