There are ‘what if’ moments in all our lives. The consequences of running with the unforeseen moment are delightfully teased out in Ben Palmer’s superior rom-com. As a ‘big star’ (notwithstanding his ridiculous casting in the last Star Trek), Simon Pegg’s name precedes him here, for you can’t help but find yourself waiting for his belated appearance while getting to know Nancy (Lake Bell), a 34-year-old wannabe writer and social misfit who has been unable to move on from a broken relationship. Pegg’s character, Jack, emotionally scarred following a bitter divorce, mistakenly takes Nancy to be the blind date whom he has arranged to meet at a railway station. By this time it’s hard not to be a little bit in love with Nancy – she’s beautiful (with a fab fringe), funny and so out of sync with other people that she needs to stare into a mirror giving herself a pep talk to attend a themed party. What happens after Nancy goes along with pretending to be the ‘Jessica’ that Jack takes her for is compressed into one cold London night. Nancy is expected at her parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary, but Jack takes her from riverside diner to bowling alley to bar, both of them drinking enough booze to make an army barracks legless – it is my only criticism of a wonderful movie that the couple were able to get through to the end without so much as a slurred word between them.
Palmer, who directed the hilarious Inbetweeners (2011), and writer Tess Moss, whose CV includes working on TV’s ‘ My Family, strike a marvellous balance between goofy gags and genuine human frailty as Nancy and Jack, through conceits and confessions, ultimately are rewarded with self-realisation and companionship. None of which would convince without Bell and Pegg, who has the good sense to understand that it is Nancy’s movie, combining so well together. They kill it while dancing to Duran Duran and Jack’s peck on Nancy’s cheek when all seems lost is gold. Don’t miss it.