For better or worse, I’ve never made many assumptions about women based on movies women are supposed to really like. And I say that as someone who has watched Titanic at least 25 times. I do notice a lot of the same features from movie to movie in this category, however. One of them is that if you want to get a girl back you have to have some saintly business on the side that she accidentally gets wind of somehow and sees you doing. Then she’ll hop right back into your arms. It’s one of the laws of the Meg Ryan universe.
On the other hand, there are volumes of secret man-knowledge lying around for the taking in any movie with the name Jud Apatow attached as director or producer. By successfully grafting romantic comedy (female) to raunchy frat-house comedy (male) in 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, he’s fashioned a genre that seems to appeal to men and women equally. For men—particularly twentysomethings who live or have lived with their stoner buddies in a permanent state of adolescence—the Apatow oeuvre sparkles with moments of recognition. For women I bet these same moments sparkle with revelation: There’s no secret male code involving weed or erections Apatow and his disciples won’t give away for a cheap laugh.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the story of Peter Bretter (Jason Segal, who also wrote the screenplay), a television composer with a famous actress girlfriend (Kristen Bell) who dumps him for a British rock musician (Russell Brand). For a change of scenery Peter takes a trip to Hawaii, where he’s mortified to find his ex and her new flame having a romantic getaway at the same resort. Luckily, hot resort receptionist Rachel (Mila Kunis) takes pity on him and lets him stay in a $6,000-per-night suite for free and, well, one thing leads to another with her. In other words, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the ultimate male-fantasy breakup scenario, from the confidence-restoring round of one-night stands (never happens in real life; women can smell desperation like cheap cologne) to the instant love match with a gorgeous new somebody we meet while trying to get away from the heartbreak. There’s also the revenge: No breakup fantasy is complete without a refusing-the-offer-to-get-back-together coda.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is on a par with 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, a little less crude than either but raunchy enough. In fact, if you’re a guy, you might think Segal has been spying on you.