April 10, 2011

Rose Byrne and "Get Him to the Greek"

Rose Byrne as pop tart Jackie Q. in Get Him to the Greek.

Anyone who is wary of the boys club comedies Hollywood has been churning out for several years now would have every reason to be equally wary of Get Him to the Greek. The 2010 comedy is a spinoff of 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and was directed by the same guy. But perhaps it would be simpler to explain that Greek is produced by Judd Apatow.You know the drill: a dull, slobby-looking protagonist muttering jokes under his breath, a gaggle of dude supporting characters, a handful of beautiful supporting actresses, and a storyline that allows the loser protagonist to eventually prevail.

Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) shoots himself in the foot, career-wise, with a song called "African Child".

Greek follows awkward music label employee Aaron (Apatow regular Jonah Hill), whose boss sends him to London for the sole task of accompanying musician Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) back to the US, where he is set to play a major concert at LA's Greek Theater. This turns out to be a lot more work than Aaron bargained for, as he finds himself trying to corral the washed-up, drugged-out Aldous from London to Las Vegas to LA.

Two amazingly raunchy Jackie Q. music videos are featured in the film.

The trailer didn't give me much hope, but it made me curious about seeing Rose Byrne, who plays Aldous' former girlfriend, British pop tart Jackie Q. The casting of Byrne seemed like an inspired gamble; with her downturned eyes and delicate face, she seems most at home giving dramatic performances (such as in Adam or Danny Boyle's Sunshine). How would she fare in a comedy?

Russell Brand steals the show.

It turns out, the whole cast is great and the film more frequently hits its comedic marks than not. Credit Russell Brand's participation in the film: his narcissistic rock-n'-roller wrests the attention away from protagonist Hill's less interesting straight man, and gives it a different flavor than other Apatow films. There's nothing exhausting about watching him, which cannot be said for comedians Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. (Though to be fair, Greek's smart editing choices also play a huge role.) Brand looks so at ease playing a world-famous performer: the peacock strutting seems as genuine as his intelligence.

In an absinthe-fueled dream sequence, Sergio Roma (P. Diddy) shows up in Aaron's head to say, "Look. I'm eating my own head."

The plot may be freewheeling and anarchic, but the film itself is meticulously paced. There is no room in this film for the usual bro posse and their hit-and-miss improvisations; in its place is a sharp supporting cast (Colm Meaney, Elisabeth Moss, Aziz Ansari, among others). As Aaron's boss, P. Diddy confronts his public image as an asshole, throws it back in your face, and leaves you marveling. The film's depiction of the entertainment industry is also deliciously canny, and half a dozen celebrities show up a themselves in cameos.

Jackie Q., international pop star, and later a more sober mom. Hooray for having a forehead that moves!

As for Byrne? She only has a handful of scenes, but her portrayal of a zonked out yet strangely earnest pop star, and later, her more clean-living self is a surprise. The hilarity of her performance comes from the canniness of her characterization rather than anything inherently comedic. She looks just like those girls you see in British tabloids like OK! or Hello!, showing off their gaudy houses and talking about their children. Despite 15 years of acting experience on TV and film, first in her native Australia and then in the US, she still seems slightly under the radar. Happily, it seems this role has opened some new doors for her. We'll get to see her next in two big summer movies: the latest X-Men movie, and also the Kristen Wiig-led comedy, Bridesmaids.

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