Monday, February 13, 2006

Manchild part 1 (40yr Old Virgin Review)

I saw this movie, The Wedding Crashers, with the family on Sunday. It was funny. It was way better than Sideways, which people and critics seemed to love but I did not get. It was on par with the 40 year old Virgin, which I thought was endearing and comical. They were touted as the return of R rated comedies.

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.

I will begin with the 40 year old Virgin. Andy is a 40 year old man who lives in an apartment full of unopened toys. He is a man child who has never experienced the pleasure of a woman because his klutzy nature always got in his way. It is funny how all of his failed trysts ended because of a damaging oafishness that involved him being ignorant to the workings of a bra or physically kicking a woman in the face. Andy in this story is quite literally a boy packaged in cellophane. He has few friends, but is friendly with everyone, and the guys he works with play into certain stereotypes. There is David (Paul Rudd) who is hopelessly in love with a woman who has long since outgrown any possible interest in him; Jay (Romany Malco) is the black womanizer who has a steady that he does not want to lose. Lastly is the pot head writer Cal (Seth Rogen) who doles sage advice like “only ask girls questions, because chicks love to be listened to.”

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 Hollywood will now follow this up with a dozen big time R comedies with pretty Hollywood 20 something that will ultimately fail because they lack the heart and soul this movie has. This worked because the characters were fully realized, and interesting enough to hang out with for an hour, not because occasionally there were tits on the screen and wall to wall sex talk. The sex talk was mostly hollow ramblings of self obsessed people who were really looking for something that had eluded them since they first took the plunge into the dating pool. It was something Andy had up till then, a solid sense of honesty, and the intimacy needed to actually forge relationships with other human beings.

I am reminded of the indie films of the late 90s, like Beautiful Girls, Chasing Amy, and The Brothers McMullen, Movies that were about getting older and getting past ennui to be a man while trying to be in a relationship. The 40 year old virgin owes a lot to those movies. They are all movies about actual relationships, and how they grow in that Hollywood sort of way. Just another movie about human relationships. You will find that is a theme with me. It always comes down to the relationships.

Now if only we can get everyone past that predictable “misunderstanding, leads to a big romantic gesture” plot.


neysaruhl said...

Well, you FINALLY saw Wedding Crashers! Good for you. I loved that movie. I actually cried I laughed so hard! I have yet to see the 40-year old Virgin, but we did buy it the other day.

I happened to like the movie Sideways. I can understand why not everyone does, however. It is one of those that you either love or hate. It is not the type of movie that you come away with saying "It was ok."

I know you said that you are only updating this blog on a weekly or monthly basis, but I still check it almost daily to make sure I don't miss anything.

Thanks for the good reading ...

The Hallspace said...

You should really check out Virgin, it is a funny movie, especially if you liked the Wedding Crashers. It is weirdly synergistic that the two came out the same year.
I didn't "hate" Sideways; I just didn't "get" it like the world seemed to be saying I should. I figured it was mostly a cultural thing. I felt some of the themes played out well. Thomas Hayden Church was running from the commitment of marriage, Paul Giamatti was looking for purpose. Similar themes played out in Virgin, Wedding Crashers and the other movies I was talking about. The winery backdrop just eluded me as too bourgeois. I do not know much about wine, and while I am eager to learn I found myself bored to tears watching someone explicate about it in such detail. It seemed that Paul’s character “Miles” was hiding his inadequacy and depression behind this image of sophistication. That might have been the point, but I did not root for these characters, no more that I would expect the average Napa Valley wine connoisseur to root for Tyrese’s Jody in Baby Boy or Latifah in Set it Off. There is a cultural gap that I was absolutely left out of the loop on.
So no, I didn’t hate the movie. I just didn’t connect with the characters enough to care. I also felt that Thomas Hayden’s character got away Scot-free with his philandering which did not sit well with me. Am I to believe that running naked to his hotel will turn him off cheating? If so why wasn't he the one to go in for the wallet and complete the arc for his character. I just had problems with the structure and characterization, but that might be me reading way too much into it.
Maybe if I get a minute I will write a full review of it.
Thing with me is I play “objective fence rider” way too often to “hate” anything because I see the merits of trying to struggle to bring a vision to life. Some art is tripe, 90% of art is mediocre, but if your heart is in the right place I give it the benefit of the doubt.
One thing I can not stand is how artists go on press junkets and say “this is the best movie ever,” when no artist ever really feels complete with their work. I prefer a good old fashioned: “this is the best it could have been” because that sounds more like the artistic process, Any artist or creator worth their weight would be in a constant struggle to evolve their work, and edit, and second guessing. That is how the truly great works rise to the top. but you still gotta sell tickets too so: contradiction are in play.
I have said way too much.
Bottom line:
I didn’t hate the movie; I saw some merits in it. The FiancĂ© hated the movie, because of the philandering thing I mentioned and all the bourgeois wine crap.
Thank you for the comments, I am glad to see someone is reading my stuff, and checking back for newness. ;)
Most of the daily posts will be at the page, which is where I post more frequently

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