After shooting for two months in the beautiful location of Hawaii, shooting in a bar in Silverlake has to be somewhat of a letdown.
Don't tell that the cast and crew of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In this new romantic comedy from the people behind such hits as The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, comes the story of Peter Bretter (Jason Segel). After being dumped by his girlfriend, TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), Peter does everything he can to get over her. Nothing works so he decamps to Hawaii where he soon realizes that Marshall and her new boyfriend Aldous (Russell Brand) are staying in the same hotel. Aiding Peter in his quest to get past all of this is Rachel (Mila Kunis), a girl with issues of her own.
Crowding into the already packed Le Barcito Bar on Sunset Boulevard it is apparent that on this day they are trying to bring a little Hawaii to Southern California. There are big orange lights and tiki lamps hanging, a band is playing, posters about Hawaii are everywhere, the extras are dressed in beach attire (which is appropriate considering how hot it is outside), and three cameras are poised to catch every bit of action.
In a regular romantic comedy they probably wouldn't employ this many recorders, but on any project having anything to do with Judd Apatow (he is producing this film and he co-wrote the screenplay with Segel) this is mandatory. This soon becomes clear as we see Segel and Kunis do a scene together. Then they do it again. And again. It isn't about the lighting or the science of getting the shadows to not appear on the actor's faces, those are all important, but these "Apatow Productions" are about the performance. They are about exploring and trying things out. Literally throwing jokes and comic ideas against the wall and seeing what, if any, make noise.
In one take it seems that Segel and Kunis are going directly off the script. They talk about Peter's relationship with Sarah Marshall and how he took a backseat to himself in it. In the next take, Segel starts to riff and says that he became like P. Diddy's Farnsworth Bentley. After a few takes Segel starts to interject how he turned down scoring Hostel: Part II because of Sarah. (We come to find out that he's something of a composer). Later, after it seems like all the possibilities have been exhausted, Director Nick Stoller just lets the camera run and starts to call out things, saying no more than a few broken sentences, and Segel immediately knows what direction to go with each line.
Later, when asked about the shoot Stoller declares, "Its been fun. I can't complain... two months in Hawaii." In talking about achieving the laid back atmosphere on the set he states, "It's like a TV style of comedy. All 4 leads are perfect."
Later in the day we find that we're actually going to get to hear part of Peter's "Dracula Musical." This is a performance piece that is to be performed by various puppets and it's going to be shot on a soundstage at Universal. He mentions it to Rachel and she sets it up with the band (unbeknownst to Peter) that he is going to take the stage and play a song from it. Again, they shoot multiple takes of this scene with Segel playing it angry that Mila's character set him up and then he is completely deadpan in the next take.
After this, Nick Stoller decides to show us some clips of the mock TV show that Sarah Marshall stars in in the film. Titled "Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime" it is a hilarious take on such serious, whispery spoken procedural shows as CSI, Law & Order, etc. Kristen Bell works opposite William Baldwin who is clearly channeling his inner David Caruso. They talk about such things like did a dead person masturbate before they die, and then Baldwin's faux cop will put on or take off his shades as is necessary. These scenes are so well done it won't be surprising if they end up on the internet promoting the movie somehow. In fact, it seems like Apatow and Co. could stop making films altogether, and simply get paid to recut their films with the unused footage that is acquired on their sets.
Stoller then brings up a scene on the monitor with Peter and his friend Brian (Bill Hader). Apparently, Peter has lost it and Brian has been called in by the Turtle Bay Resort's landlord. (Interestingly, the name of the resort in real life has stayed the same in the movie). After a lot of pleading, Peter finally lets Brian into the room and their encounter, taking place in front of the landlord, is highly outrageous. Once this done, we are treated to a scene where Aldous serenades Sarah Marshall to a song titled "Inside of You." Laced with a certain Brit Pop feel, Russell Brand gives it everything he has in his rendition of this song. He moves all over the stage, making interesting hand and body gestures at Sarah. When the song ends, he gets off this stage, his humility somehow still intact, and proceeds to start violently making out with Marshall.
Closing out the day, we are treated to Segel performing the Dracula song. We are told that the puppets in the final film are to evoke the mood of Jim Henson. In this scene Peter is very uncomfortable and Rachel does nothing to ease his nerves. As he tries to get out of singing, she screams "Dracula Musical" and he eventually begins to accommodate her. With a vocal range that can best be described as Cher meets Andrew Lloyd Webber, this gothic-type ballad utilizes the name of Van Helsing at one point, features maniacal laughing and a closing line that says "Die, die, die... I can't."
After two films that have grossed over $100 million at the box office, Apatow and his team seem to know what the moviegoing public wants to see. While Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn't due to hit theaters until May 30, 2008, it seems that they have again tapped into the ever elusive place that movie lovers want to go.