A Kristen Bell Surprise Hit Is Crushing On Netflix

By Nathan Kamal | 16 seconds ago

Kristen Bell

Kristen Bell has been acting since she was a child, which tends to be pretty rough on adult stars. Her first prominent role was in a Broadway revival of an Arthur Miller play with Liam Neeson, which is pretty good for any small child, but it did not immediately translate into other roles. Bell’s big break did not come until she was 24 and cast as a high school-aged detective in the cult teen noir series Veronica Mars, a role which she would continue to portray as recently as 2019 occasionally. She still struggled to find the film role that would break her out to a larger audience, and like so many actors in the mid-2000s, found it in the explosion of Judd Apatow comedies of the time. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, starring Kristen Bell as the titular character to be forgotten, is currently trending in the top ten most-watched movies on Netflix USA and for honestly, good reason. 

Kristen Bell

In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Kristen Bell plays the eponymous character, a mid-level TV actor starring in a CSI-style crime procedural with a heavily overacting WIlliam Baldwin. In the opening scene of the movie, she breaks up with her musician boyfriend Peter (screenwriter Jason Segel), prompting the rest of the plot. In many ways, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a very simple film, borderline cliche; a nice guy gets dumped by a mean woman, he learns to believe in himself from a series of colorful characters, and he eventually falls in love with someone else. But while Forgetting Sarah Marshall is not quite a satire of that kind of movie, it is far more interested in subverting those tropes than pursuing them. 

Kristen Bell

The majority of Forgetting Sarah Marshall is spent in a resort in Hawaii, presumably using the same Adam Sandler school of filmmaking that entails setting the plot in one of the most beautiful places on Earth so the cast can hang out there. Both Kristen Bell and Jason Segel end up at the same resort and are understandably both distressed to see each other there. For Segel, he is trying to get out a major depressive episode in Los Angeles and get drunk on the beach, while Kristen Bell is there to have loud and acrobatic sex with her new boyfriend, rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Over the course of their stay, Segel develops a romantic relationship with hotel employee Rachel (Mila Kunis) and slowly makes friends with, well, pretty much everyone. 

Kristen Bell

The key to Forgetting Sarah Marshall is that the plot could apply equally as well to drama as it does comedy. Reportedly, producer Judd Apatow advised Jason Segel to write the first draft of the film as a drama and to trust that they could turn it into a comedy with the right cast. Given that Apatow was at that point at the apex of his comedic instincts, Segel was right to take the tip. If anything, Kristen Bell is given the least comedic material to work with, but the movie never dips too far into pathos. The film is filled with goofy characters like Paul Rudd’s affable, spacy surf instructor and Bill Hader as Segel’s de facto best friend/former stepbrother and famously begins with Segel doing full-frontal nudity for a ridiculously long period of time (inspired by a real-life incident in which he was broken up with while naked). But despite that, the bones of Forgetting Sarah Marshall are serious, which makes the comedy that much more affecting. 

forgetting sarah marshall

Forgetting Sarah Marshall also rises above its comedic peers by humanizing the entire cast. There are no small parts in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and no small actors. Over the course of the movie, Kristen Bell is gradually revealed as full of self-doubt as Jason Segel, working through the same issues of jealousy and self-esteem. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that Segel was not the perfect boyfriend he imagined himself to be and that their breakup, however traumatizing, was probably the right thing for them. 

forgetting sarah marshall

Even Russell Brand’s ridiculous, pseudo-bohemian Aldous (in a role originally written for Charlie Hunnam) is eventually seen to be thoughtful and kind to others, if not particularly self-aware. Really, the only actual bad person in the film is Jonah Hill’s recurring creep of a waiter, who spends the movie alternately stalking Russell Brand and cursing at other people. Apparently, some people found this funny enough to greenlight one of the more bizarrely conceived sequels in recent memory. 


Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a commercial success and well received by critics, and launched the successful film careers of both Kristen Bell and Jason Segel as leads. It is a strangely warm, gentle movie about the importance of self-healing and understanding that everyone around you is also a person with their own life. Except maybe Jonah Hill.