dir: Judd Apatow
[img_assist|nid=897|title=Some people choose a life of celibacy. Others have celibacy thrust upon them|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=318|height=400]
It’s rare that I venture forth to the cinema in order to catch a comedy. They’re rarely funny and usually so disposable that I forget I’m watching them whilst I’m watching them. It’s always scary when you have to check your ticket to remind yourself what you’re watching. Ah, senility, my friend, you make everything old new again.
It’s far easier to catch them on DVD or cable, with little loss to my time, brain cells or threadbare wallet. In this instance there was clearly something different going on. I went out of my way to see this instead of the myriad other stuff on display at any of Melbourne’s fine theatres. There was a different thought process involved.
Judd Apatow is the name that made me think this might be worth watching. Apatow is one of those hellishly talented people who makes some great stuff for television but keeps getting shafted by the networks. His show Freaks and Geeks was a fresh and highly enjoyable entry into the high school kids tv genre. It wasn’t Degrassi High, but it also wasn’t Rich White Teenagers With Problems, part of the legacy Beverly Hills 90210 has left in its murderous wake.
It was damn fine televisual goodness, and it only lasted a season. He then tried another show called Undeclared, about the same sorts of complicated, believable kids at university. That lasted a season too.
Naturally, it’s to the big screen that he needs must to go. He and the movie’s “star”, Steve Carell have collaborated on the screenplay and come up with a pretty entertaining comedy about a pretty unbelievable premise.
I mean, how many guys could really get to their 40s without getting it on with someone, anyone, or anything?
That’s where the premise comes from, that this guy called Andy, through timidity but no real fault of his own, has reached such an age without ever having popped his cherry. His shyness around women, and his ability to sublimate his desires into other pursuits means that no-one really knows or cares about his particular problem.
That is, for how else would the plot progress, until the guys at his place of work figure out he’s never had the honour and the privilege to fuck someone.
Imagine it. Imagine what it would be like, for those of you who don’t own lots of Magic the Gathering cards, to have never had sex. Imagine what your everyday life would be like. How you would fill the empty hours as you dawdle aimlessly towards the grave.
The makers of this film have wondered as well, and they’ve come up with the idea that Andy, dorky but not a retard, would compensate by being a perpetual adolescent. He doesn’t drive a car, he has more video games, to quote from the movie, than an Asian teenager, and he surrounds his apartment with action figures that he’s never taken out of the box to preserve their integrity.
Personally, in that state, I’m be more fixated on what I could stick into some boxes rather than what should never come out of them.
He still adores women. It’s just that, like most sober men, he has no real idea how to approach ones he doesn’t know without coming across as a serial killer. Coward that he is, he chooses to avoid them.
So his workmates decide to take his virginity into their own hands, so to speak. They make it their mission to ensure that Andy gets his end in by film’s end.
Being the total nebbish that Andy is, of course the path to fulfilment is not going to be easy. Also, if he decided to just see a professional trained in the arts of ‘lurve’, there wouldn’t have been much of a film. Or at least he wouldn’t be that sympathetic a main character, which he is.
The humour throughout the film is pretty explicit, pretty crude at times, pretty fucking funny. There are, since a group of guys make up the majority of the cast, a lot of gay jokes as well. But instead of treating it as a negative, or using it in a derogatory way, it’s actually quite well utilised and funny.
Two friends at one point go through a routine where they start each sentence with “I know you are gay because…”, and it got me chuckling. One of my favourites would have been “I know you are gay because you like Coldplay.” You cannot argue with cold, hard logic like that.
Of course it’s used later for one of my biggest laughs which makes no sense out of context, and I don’t want to spoil it, but it involves some tender hugging.
I don’t mean the way hugging was used in that recent Oliver Stone atrocity Alexander, where men, manly men, who loved the cock if records are accurate, were reduced to expressing their love for each other with manly, regular, constant and asexual hugs.
No, the man-love was the least of that film’s problems. It was the wigs what sunk it, methinks.
Anyway, enough about an awful film that didn’t work, let’s keep looking at a funny film by a decent director instead.
There’s a real vibe to this flick that reminded me of a film practically no-one, even the geeks on this newsgroup, would have seen, called Free Enterprise. The point is similar, in that both flicks show guys fixating on geek paraphernalia and merchandising to compensate for their emotional immaturity. The major difference is that Free Enterprise shamelessly overcompensated by representing its non-bill paying nerds as ladies men and players, whereas the Virgin is a bit more critical of that mentality. And realistic.
Still, who the fuck are these geeks to make films insulting rootless geeks who cream over action figures and limited edition boxed sets anyway? The only people that usually know enough about this culture to criticise it properly are generally action figure-stroking, detail-obsessed Worst Episode Ever! nerds themselves, girlfriends or boyfriends notwithstanding.
The 40 Year Old Virgin only works if you like the Andy character, and enjoy his interactions with the various women in the story, and especially with the other guys. David (Paul Rudd), Cal (Seth Rogen) and Jay (Romany Malco) don’t so much act as a Greek chorus, as they do more of a representation of both what “normal” guys are like and how their lives are all the more complicated because of it.
Naturally, for a film like this, there has to be plenty of inappropriate and wrongheaded advice from the players aimed at getting Andy laid. The worst but funniest involves convincing Andy that drunk girls are a sure-fire way to get it in and get it on.
Drunk girls are god’s gift to us homely, uncharismatic men. They guarantee for us that no matter how unsuitable and unattractive we are both physically and personality-wise, eventually, depending on where you hang out, there’s going to be some girl drunk enough to want to fuck you.
Of course, there is a down side to this, and the film represents it in all its technicolour glory.
The best advice given to Andy is a brilliantly succinct piece of wisdom that every man, dweeb or not, should take to heart. It’s so simple that it is pure, unadulterated genius. The film contends that women don’t really want guys to talk about themselves, or to talk much at all. The surefire way they give Andy to chat to and therefore eventually fuck women is: keep asking questions.
Ask questions endlessly, just keep them talking about themselves, and eventually some switch flicks in their heads and they think you’re an interesting guy.
In the hands of a dink like Andy, such wisdom goes to waste, of course. He doesn’t appreciate the complexities and subtleties of such a powerful strategy.
Until he meets Trish (Catherine Keener). And then it becomes more about love and less about sex, but his fear of sex becomes their greatest obstacle.
They all do good work, and though Keener is great in everything (people may especially remember her as Maxine from Being John Malkovich), it’s Carell that carries the flicks on his slim, geeky shoulders. There is a reason why this guy is perfect for the role.
When the Americani decided to make the tragic mistake of remaking the BBC’s The Office for American audiences, Carell is the one they chose to be the new version of David Brent. As much as that fiasco sucked, he did play an awfully desperate and painfully needy character well.
That kind of energy serves him well here, too. He has to be sympathetic for the flick to not be painful, and he does fine. I didn’t care about when he was going to get his rocks off, since that was clearly an inevitability. Yet I did care about his journey along the way.
For a sex comedy, it degenerates awfully quickly into a freaking lovey-dovey story. But it does so in a respectable fashion. It is still all about the humour, though. They don’t forget that the laughs are what people came for, the tales of Mexican women fucking horses and men talking about the joys of Rusty Trombones.
There are moments that go on too long (like the chest waxing scene, which they spend a ridiculous amount of time on), and some scenes are clumsy and awkward, because they try to maintain that illusion of spontaneity by getting actors to improvise a scene repeatedly with increasingly crappy results, and choose the best or least worst one for the final cut.
But it is funny, overall. That is the prime prerequisite, surely. I got laughs, and it takes a lot to get me to laugh in a cinema. It was crude enough to tickle my smutty funny bones, and it was clever enough to make me enjoy it and not feel deep shame.
Deep, deep shame.
7 GMILF’s out of 10. If that’s hard to work out, just recall that GM stands for grandmother, and, well, MILF you can work out for your own damn selves.
“You can fuck her while watching "Murder, She Wrote". She'll like that.” – Cal, The 40 Year Old Virgin.