What I learned to respect about these two comedies was their age level, and how they deftly seemed to balance burgeoning maturity and immaturity. These were stories about manhood and how it proceeds from boyhood.
It is an archetypal love story. There is the typical misunderstanding where the guy has to make a big emotional gesture. In this movie Andy is hiding the fact that he is a virgin, and it backfires because his woman thinks he is a serial killer or something because she finds a box of porn. This is weird as far as “big mix-ups” go. I could not imagine how many calls the Cincy PD would have gotten if all the women who stumbled onto my porn collection thought I was a serial killer.
Andy, through the process of the movie makes friends with the guys he works with. The social boundary is let down and the curtain is pulled back. In the process of teaching him how to bed a lady they go to bars with him, they hang out at his house and play video games. One aspect of the movie that is forgotten in most reviews is how this movie slides into male bonding effortlessly and a friendship evolves in the process. Andy goes from being the outsider to being the guy these three will break into an apartment to stop from making a mistake. You see a friendship grow, and these men open up a little to their own flaws as a result. They some to see Andy as a reflection of what they want out of their relationships, and what they thought they wanted.
The movie seems to run with the premise of The Wood, American Pie and before that, Porky's. It is the age old, teenage loss of virginity story, only fast forwarded 20 years. Andy doesn’t have parents, like the absence of parents in all teenage movies. Parents in the movie would raise questions as to how Andy got the way he is. Andy learns everything he needs to know about sex from his new guy friends, who of course know nothing. And then he relearns in his actual relationship with Trish (Catherine Keener), the girl who runs the EBay store across the street. She sells stuff on EBay, which sounds like a metaphor for helping him strip away the layers of his childhood so that he can enter the world a man. It is no surprise when she actually takes on the task of selling all his toys, which he no longer needs because he has a woman to occupy his time
I am reminded of a time when I was a preteen and I was playing GI Joes in the yard with my brother. Some girls I didn’t know came walking up our street and I instinctively tried to hide the toys, knowing it would render me infantile in their eyes. My brother, two years my junior at the time had no such meter and he protested exhaustively until the girls passed.
This movie is about maleness, with all its lusty bravado, and the maturity of womanhood that tames that rampant desire and helps you grow into a man. Trish has kids, and Andy’s childlike nature allows him to cozy up to the daughter causes him to gain the ire of the older daughter. The older daughter has an oddly telling moment where she calls Andy on his Virginity. She says she is around boys all the time and she can tell who has done it and who hasn’t. In the movie it speaks to that inner foresight women have over men in that they can secretly tell the man’s desires even if the man himself does not know. It rings false that the daughter, who has never had sex can spot a virgin when all the countless other women who come in contact with Andy are none the wiser, particularly the mom Trish who is intimate with him all the way up to heavy petting. That and I know 15 year olds and they don’t know jack about jack, let alone how to accurately judge the sexual prowess of a 40 year old man. In reality older men don’t even register on their radar let alone get judged for sexual efficacy. It stands to reason that she sees the childlike innocence and awkwardness in Andy that parallels boys her age, but for the daughter to be so narcissistic in the rest of the movie and to have this suddenly empathetic moment does not flow from the previous scene where she is yelling at the mother from the bathroom about wanting birth control. Interestingly after this scene the daughters fall off the screen to give Andy and Trish a chance to work up to their big misunderstanding and eventual romantic gesture.
So the themes continue to play. Women as the tamers, men as the wild passionate beasts that want to unleash sexual fury. Women as the holders of the keys to the magic of intimacy, and maturity in the grown man-boy. Andy and Trish get married before they do anything, and the movie ends in a huge dance number that makes little sense. Then it cuts back to 5 minutes later where Andy has gotten his first squirt out of the way and they try again for the big finish.
So much about this movie rings tender and true. That humanness and vulnerability in Andy’s eyes in those eerily innocent Virgin posters is what made the movie a hit. My biggest fear is that
Now if only we can get everyone past that predictable “misunderstanding, leads to a big romantic gesture” plot.