Date Night #2: Man Up!


Ah date night. That wonderful night when you screw your courage to the sticking point and put yourself out there for one more spin on the merry-go-round of love. This one took place at The Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, where we went to see a screening of Man Up, the new romcom starring Simon Pegg and Lake Bell.

In the pantheon of dating activities, there are perhaps none as risky as the cinema. Ok, maybe abseiling. Or basejumping. Or shoe shopping (admittedly this last one is more a risk of putting a bullet in your own head after watching someone try on 34 pairs of shoes before walking out empty handed). Seriously though, the cinema is a dangerous date. Sure, it can be brilliantly intimate – holding hands in the dark, glancing into each others eyes at the emotional beats of the story, attempting the popcorn trick from the 1982 movie Diner (PROTIP: Do NOT attempt the popcorn trick from the 1982 movie Diner). But it can also go horribly wrong – I’ll never forget the time I took someone on a cinema date to cheer them up after the death of a friend. I picked what I thought would be a nice fluffy romcom by Richard Curtis, the man behind Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually. Sadly, I didn’t realise that this movie, About Time, featured a large death-related subplot, and sat there white-knuckled as the story unfolded, constantly worrying that my date could completely fall apart at any second. She managed to hold it together. Obviously, I was a blubbering wreck.

Fortunately, there were no such problems at Man Up, the film I took V. to see this week. It’s a romantic comedy that charts a course across the rocky seas of love, as Jack (Simon Pegg) and Nancy (American actress Lake Bell, sporting a flawless English accent) go on a first date with other. Accidentally.

As a 37 year-old myself who’s no stranger to the world of modern dating, it’s surprising (and a little bit cringeworthy) how many details the film gets right. 40 year-old Jack isn’t the perfect romcom hero – he’s flawed, petty, divorced, and really not over it. 34 year-old Nancy has her issues too, and after one-too-many awful matchmaking attempts from her friends has just decided to lean into her inevitable future as a cat lady. Of course the pair meet and hit it off, after Nancy pretends to be Jack’s blind date, and then has to pass herself off as 24 year-old Jessica for the duration of the evening. They hit it off, but obviously we wouldn’t recommend this as a dating strategy.

Interestingly (especially for a mainstream romcom, where the age gaps between male and female co-stars frequently hit double digits) that the movie eventually challenges the idea that a forty year-old and a twenty four year old would have much in common anyway, which is something I’ve often thought about myself.

The movie doesn’t sermonise though, and fortunately the journey our characters take as they slowly decide to grow a pair and seize life by the balls is filled with belly laughs and power ballads. The film is definitely much better when the characters are talking to each other about life and dating than when it suddenly starts throwing outrageous sitcom-style comedy set pieces at the screen, but then seeing as I’m well-know for being the guy who once accidentally cut open his testicles minutes before a date, I guess I can hardly complain that it’s too over the top.

FYI, the film rights to my life are still available.

The film did pass my ultimate romcom litmus test too, in that I shed a few tears at the inevitable declaration of love speech at the end. I am a notorious cinema crier though – To this day I can’t even explain the ending of Monsters Inc. to someone without welling up. Of course, V. chose that exact moment to look at me. “You big soppy git!” She laughed and then squeezed my hand tightly. In that moment I remember wishing that the film wouldn’t end, just so that we could sit in the dark, laughing together for a little bit longer. “That went well,” I said to V. as we finally emerged into the daylight. She looked surprised. “Why, was there a chance it wouldn’t?” So I told her my theory about how cinema dates were the riskiest dates. “Well if you think that was risky, you just wait ’till next week,” she laughed. “What’s happening next week then?” I asked. “We’re going I a double date with my parents!” I gulped. Suddenly a darkened room seemed like a much safer place to be…

 Man Up is on general release now. Check your local cinema listings for screening times!


Jon Hamblin writes ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women”, an award winning blog that details his frequent failures to impress any women ever. Read about his other Date Nights.

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