The mix of hilarious, amazingly rude slapstick with a shrewd observation of human behaviour and honest emotions makes it one of the year’s best comedies. Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler should look to their wilting laurels because Steve Carell can match their raunch but he adds intelligence and careful observation to the mix so that the film touches your heart as well as kicking your funnybone.
Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd.
This flat-out, in-your-face sex comedy is probably the rudest comedy we are likely to see this year, but it is also one of the funniest. The title more-or-less describes the story. Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) is a fairly good-looking, genuinely nice guy who has managed to turn 40 without ever having sex. There’s nothing physically wrong with him and he’s not repulsive. If anything he’s too nice and too concerned about offending any woman he likes, so after a series of missed opportunities he’s more or less settled into a terminal virginity.
When his secret is uncovered by his work buddies, they make it their mission in life to get Andy laid. In the process we are taken on a tongue-in-cheek, whistle-stop tour of the sex lives of the average American male and its messy and silly enough to make us wonder if Andy does not have the right idea about virginity.
The genius of the script is that underneath all the raw and raunchy comedy is a lot of sound good sense about relationships, affection and companionship. That’s the secret of the film’s charm. As the film progresses we get to see more of the lives of Andy’s buddies and they are a sorry lot. David (Paul Rudd) can’t get over a failed relationship. He’s saddled with a sense of failure and despite the fact that girls really like him, the sex he gets does nothing to please or comfort him. He’s getting what he thinks he wants, but in fact the only thing he really wants is someone to love and he had that but lost it. He’s far worse off than Andy is, yet he presumes to be the great sexual maestro.
The same is true of the other two guys Jay (Romany Malco) and Cal (Seth Rogen) who flee from relationships and when they are involved they lie and cheat to preserve the illusion that they are still sex-gods who can go out and have no-strings fun with women whenever they choose. They are dragged through their lives by their dicks and they are rapidly reaching the same age as Andy, and the question is which is worse? To be a 40-year old virgin or to be a 40-year old adolescent with chronic commitment issues?
Despite the parade of willing babes that the friends shove in front of him, Andy forms his own edgy, off relationship with Trish (Catherine Keener) who gives the other great performance in the film. Keener has done sterling work on the independent film circuit, moving from “Being John Malkovich” and “Your Friends and Neighbours” through “Lovely and Amazing” to “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”. She is a resourceful and intelligent actor, who goes right to the emotional core this character. Trish has a failed relationship behind her and a teenage daughter. She’s lonely but wary, but she is also a bit flakey, a woman with weird ideas who works to her own odd agenda. Andy is Mr Normal, scrupulously clean and neat, disciplined and polite. They are the proverbial opposites that always attract but it’s a very strange and hilarious attraction. Catherine Keener gives a very detailed and emotionally true performance, edging the comedy with pathos and lifting the situation onto another level..
Mention must also be made of Paula (Jane Lynch), Andy’s boss, who never gave him the time of day before she knew his sexual status, but the idea of being able to take a man’s virginity sends her hormones into overdrive. The scene I which she sings him a tango is one of the funniest moments in recent screen comedy. Everything in the film is exactly judged and director Judd Apatow understand Steve Carell’s comic style and timing so well that the film does not have one single dud joke. It’s consistently funny but it also exposes real truths about ordinary people, but it never turns into a mealy-mouthed sermon. In the overcrowded field of macho farce this film is funky and completely original.
- Read an in-depth interview with Steve Carell on the making of this film on the Interview page at Rather Ronge. This review is republished with permission from Barry Ronge.
- buy 40 Year Old Virgin from Kalahari.net