Truly enjoyable British romantic-comedies come along so rarely (Four Weddings and a Funeral was more than 20 years ago) that there's cause to celebrate this smart, likeable romp. Director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris never try to obscure the predictable plot, but they pack every scene with sharp characters, snappy dialogue and riotous set-pieces. As a result, we're laughing so much that we barely notice that we're also being reeled in emotionally.
The story centres on Nancy (Lake Bell), who is feeling particularly alone while travelling to London and a 40th anniversary party for her parents (Ken Stott and Harriet Walter). Whinging to her sister (Sharon Horgan) on the phone, she is challenged to be more spontaneous. So when she arrives at Waterloo Station and meets Jack (Simon Pegg), who mistakes her for his blind date, she decides to go along with it, assuming the identity of 24-year-old triathlete Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond). As the afternoon and evening roll out, Nancy and Jack get along surprisingly well until they run into both his bitter ex (Olivia Williams) and one of her old school friends (Kinnear), who sees this as his chance to win her over.
While there are plenty of farcical moments on this drunken night out, the filmmakers never play up the slapstick, acknowledging every over-the-top moment with an eye-roll and a pithy comment. Pegg and Bell are simply perfect for these roles: smart, witty, likeable people with questionable social skills. Both characters are a bit beaten down, but they're also open to what life throws at them, so the rather messy journey they take is thoroughly engaging. They also leave much of the crazier comedy to expert supporting players like Williams and especially Kinnear, whose character very nearly steals the movie with his goofy stalker-like antics.
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British filmmaker Martin Simon Hewis uses dark humour and visual trickery to overcome what is clearly a very small budget. So even if the comedy feels low-key and uneven, it continually catches us off-guard with inventive touches that bring out deeper themes. It's also strongly reminiscent of that time of life when youthful carelessness has to give way to grown-up responsibilities. And the characters are hilariously realistic.
Set in a Bristol call centre, the story focuses on Dan (Hughes), a hapless guy who has just been thrown out of his house by his angry mother (Haywood), who's sure he let his drunken dad (Kaye) steal her winning lottery ticket. With nowhere to live, Dan takes his cat and camps out in the office without telling his colleagues, a gang of bored phone operators (including Thomas, Ashton and Ladwa) who liven things up with pranks and after-hours partying. But his life gets even more complicated when his maneating boss (Lombard) tells him to sack Teri (Lovibond), the coworker he has a secret crush on.
In other words, amid all of the workplace antics, Dan needs to grow up and sort out his life. But it's a lot more fun to hang out with his goofy colleagues and let someone else take responsibility. The script nicely captures this time of life without ever getting heavy-handed about it, focussing on the colourful characters and situations as well as the internal fantasies that torment Dan. Hughes plays him as one of those standard British protagonists who can't quite get anything right, and yet we root for him. Lovibond is a feisty foil for him, although their rom-com subplot remains in the film's margins. And the surrounding cast bring all kinds of sparky wit to their roles.
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Fortunately, it's also rather good fun.
Tom Popper (Carrey) is a high-powered Manhattan developer trying to earn a partnership in his firm by buying the iconic Tavern on the Green from its elderly owner (Lansbury). Like his intrepid explorer dad, he barely keeps up with his kids (Carroll and Cotton) from his marriage to Amanda (Gugino), whom he clearly still cares for. Then his father dies and leaves him six mischievous penguins, and all of Tom's careful plans fall apart. First, the birds make a mess of his immaculately minimalist bachelor pad, then they teach him Important Life Lessons.
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Adam (Kutcher) and Emma (Portman) have spent 15 years flirting at the random points where their lives have crossed. Now living in Los Angeles, they meet again and decide what they really need is sex without a relationship. Adam's pals (Bridges and Johnson) are jealous, while Emma's colleague (Lawson) believes he's the right man for her instead. But things start getting complicated when Adam's ex (Lovibond) moves in with his star-writer dad (Kline), and Emma starts thinking about relationships as her sister (Thirlby) gets married.
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William (Johnson) is a troubled rich kid in North London who strains against the success of his novelist mother (Dodds). Obsessed with suicide, he spends his hours in online chatrooms, creating one that attracts four members: equally bored rich kid Eva (Poots), shy and lonely Jim (Beard), needy Emily (Murray) and Mo (Kaluuya), who struggles with unwanted urges. But it soon becomes clear that William is a predator who's out to unsettle and derail everyone around him. Will they catch on soon enough to stop his nefarious plan?
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Four pals go their separate ways for a fateful weekend. Shannon (Lovibond) is struggling with dark emotions as her parents split up, but her friends seem too busy to listen. Cass (Egerton) is flying to New York for an important audition and also to lose her virginity to an internet friend, but neither go as planned. Kerrys (Warren-Markland) is the loudest member of her boisterous family, clashing with her brother (Chillin) while her girlfriend (Fielding) cheers her on. And Jo (Roberts) is stuck working in the family shop through two eventful nights.
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In 1955 Liverpool, John Lennon (Johnson) is a troubled 15-year-old, raised by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George (Scott Thomas and Threlfall) without knowing that his wayward mother Julia (Duff) lives just around the corner. But everything's going to change, and while he tries to balance these parental relationships he's also discovering rock 'n' roll. He teams with his pal Pete (Bolt) to form a skiffle band called The Quarrymen. And interest in the band heats up when talented musicians Paul and George (Sangster and Bell) join them.
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Date of birth
19th February, 1986