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Dreaded Relationship Break-Up Scenario Serves as Fodder for Comedy in 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall'


In movies, the break-up of a relationship is often the stuff of tragedy; but in the latest film from prolific producer Judd Apatow (creator of, among other hits, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up"), romance on the rocks makes for bawdy comedy. Alan Silverman has a look at "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

Homely, insecure Peter Bretter is a composer who dreams of creating a musical version of Dracula using puppets; but to make a living he writes soundtrack music for TV shows. He has been dating Sarah Marshall, the glamorous star from one of those shows; but when she breaks up with him after five years together, Peter is crushed and depressed.

Pushed by his best friend, Peter takes a holiday to a tropical island resort ...only to find that his ex is also staying there with her new boyfriend.

Peter's dream of getting back together with Sarah seems unattainable - her new flame is a world-famous rock star - but somehow he can't help himself, even as he's finding new love with the compassionate desk clerk at the hotel.

Jason Segel stars as dejected, rejected Peter and co-wrote the script that tinkers with the traditional romantic comedy formula.

"I think we found that misery and desperation and a real desire to be with someone and it's unrequited is a real area for comedy because everyone can relate to it," Segel says. "Everyone has had that feeling in some capacity. We thought it would be fun to write the man as the one who is lovelorn and devastated and weepy with the girl who is just strong and has moved on. We tried to turn it on its head a bit."

In perhaps the most-talked-about part of the movie, Segel as Peter spends the entire break-up scene completely naked ...with no camera tricks or comic devices to obscure anything. He says the inspiration came from a real-life experience.

"It was basically just like in the movie," explains Segel. "I thought that this woman was coming over to fool around and so I was naked when she arrived. I did what I do in the movie: I said 'hey, baby ...' And she said 'Jason, we need to talk...' I knew what was happening. I could feel it and I tried to experience it viscerally ...you know, like this is an actual moment in my life ...but all I could think was 'this is going to be so funny in a movie some day.' Honest to God, I understand why she would leave given that I was totally disconnected from reality and the present moment. I would have left.

" It was scary to go out there naked," he adds. "I thought it would be fun. I thought I would walk out naked and they would say 'action!' But, no, it is not like that at all. You show up and you realize that you are about to be naked in front of 300 people. That terrified me, but the reason I wanted to do it was that I think the way we did it was not gratuitous. I think that would have been 'hacky' [bad writing] if it was just for some reason, all of a sudden, there I am naked. I think it is such a vulnerable scene and to play that naked ...to see somebody crying and naked and desperate and alone ...I think we got the recipe right for male nudity. I hope so because I am not doing it ever again. Even privately."

Kristin Bell co-stars as the ethereal Sarah Marshall.

"I think that the one thing other than making good comedy that this Judd Apatow brand of movies has done ...is they show a lot more reality in relationships [and] a lot more accuracy, I think," says Bell. "One of the reasons I loved Jason's script so much was that it didn't demonize Sarah even though she instigated the break-up because there are always two sides to it.

Producer Judd Apatow, a longtime collaborator with writer and star Segel, says that sense of reality comes from a sense of humor.

"I don't think there's any moment in life that doesn't have some aspect of humor in it," Apatow says. "I'm sure I'll make movies that are a lot less funny and lean on drama more because the story line demands it; but any time I see a movie that has no laughs at all I usually think that it's not truthful on some level."

Forgetting Sarah Marshall also features Bill Hader as Peter's always supportive best friend; Mila Kunis is the charming hotel clerk Peter falls for in Hawaii; and English TV personality Russell Brand plays Peter's Rival, Sarah's outrageous rock star boyfriend.

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