The 40 Year Old Virgin
It has been said that you cannot judge a book by its cover. In this year age of technology we live in the same can be said about the titles of movies. My first reaction to a film named ’40 Year Old Virgin’ was the flick would be a puerile sex based romp. Fortunately, upon actually seeing it I was greatly and pleasantly surprised. This is an intelligently written, well directed and wonderfully acted film. Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) is a likeable chap, easy to befriend and at ease when around video games, collectibles and his male friends. The thing is this easy going persona completely falls apart when the hapless Andy is around members of the opposite sex. When it comes to women Andy has long ago decided that he would have to sit on the sidelines, literally a forty year old virgin. When Andy is hanging out with his buddies they indulge in the typical male pastime, talking in detail about women. Andy tries his best to fit in but watching him try to relate is like watching a man who understands a few words in a language but just doesn’t grasp the syntax. During a regular poker game with his friends the topic of how a woman’s breast feels. When he compares them to a bag of sand his friends realize that Andy has never actually touched one. The secret of his virginity is out and naturally, after more than a few jokes at his expense they set about on a mission to have their fiend de-virginized. Andy’s friends are far from being experts in the field of relationships of sex. David (Paul Rudd) is deeply in love with a woman that has moved on from him. Jay (Romany Malco) acts as the ladies man and Cal (Seth Rogen) is a fountain of practical tips. Since they do have more than Andy he somewhat reluctantly accepts their offer of help. Also at work is Andy’s boss, Paula (Jane Lynch) who gives him the strange offer of being friends with benefits, guarantying to rock his world. OF course you need a female lead for a film like this. Trish (Catherine Keener) fills the spot as the woman who works in a store across the mall from Andy’s place of employment. While Andy is attracted to her he is too shy to act. The story arc of Trish making an effort to get to know the real Andy is touching and heart warming.
While it would have been easy to make this film into just another of so many sex theme flicks that unfortunately make good box office it takes the high road. It treats sex for what it is, part of the natural human experience, not just the result of over active hormones. This film has heart and that is why it works so amazingly well. The characters are fully fleshed out human beings living in the real world. It avoids the quick, cheap laugh. The humor is from deep in our own experience. While few today are forty year old virgins we can all empathize with the discovery of dealing with relationships. The age of the protagonist just sets the stage for the humor, the humanity is what drives and sustains it. For the sake of this realism Carell actually did submit to having his ample chest hairs waxed. Those little drops of blood seen are actually his. Usually, comedies with sex as the main theme it’s the act itself that important. Here it is almost a true Hitchcock MacGuffin, important to the characters but almost secondary to the audience. For a change a film has made it big that is truly funny without being mean spirited or juvenile.
This is a dream cast for a comedy. Steve Carell made a name for himself in the much lauded fake news show, ‘The Daily Show’. It was there that he honed his skills of comic timing. His work in the film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy stole the show. Here, he is the epitome of the every day man. We can all relate to his character even though many will not freely admit to it. We can sit there and feel for his plight. Here is a really nice guy, the kind many women would give anything to be with and he can’t bring himself to approach any of them. The dilemma is a two edged sword. It is his shy personality that makes him such a catch and at the same time keeps him from finding the love he deserves. Paul Rudd as one of the buddies is almost a tragic figure. While he is devoted to helping his friend find love it escapes him personally. Catherine Keener is given a great opportunity to display her considerable acting abilities. In this film she gets to play against her usual type, the hard-hearted woman. Her presentation of Trish is a large part of the emotional core of this film.
Even though the title may have misdirected some a look at who the writer/director was should put any trepidation at rest. Judd Apatow co-wrote this film with star Steve Carell. Apatow has been the creative force behind some of the best, most intelligent and sadly the most over looked television in decades. He was part of the team for the Larry Sanders show and the animated series, ‘The Critic’. His two forays on his own, ‘Freaks and Geeks’ and ‘Undeclared’ both met early cancellation but can be appreciated thanks to full series DVD sets. Apatow has a way of making the mundane really funny. He is like the friend we all have who can make light of the most serious things that happen. His pacing is impeccable. The story flows organically, in a realistic yet always funny way. Apatow has the natural gift to fuse serious emotions with side splitting humor. In lesser hands this film would have flopped badly instead of becoming one of the classic comedies of film.
Universal has stepped up to the plate and given this film the DVD presentation it so richly deserves. There are three separate releases, R-Rated pan & scan, R-Rated widescreen and an unrated widescreen. Let’s be realistic here, most will opt for the last one. The Dolby 5.1 audio is great. The sound stage is full and encompasses the room. While the sub woofer does not get too much to do it is really not missed. The video is a rich anamorphic 1.85:1. The color palette is without flaw. The contrast is near to reference quality. There are some differences in the extras between the rated and unrated versions. Universal supplied the unrated version so I only had a chance to review that set. The rated version has a 1970’s sex education film that is not on the unrated variation. All versions have a gag reel, it seems the behind the scenes humor got out of hand a few times. There is a featurette that shows the various improvisations the cast came up with. The documentary of the now famous waxing scene is hilarious! The deleted scenes come with a commentary by Apatow and producer Seth Rogen. Steve Carell joins Apatow for a feature length commentary track. The extras included in the unrated version include still more deleted scenes, a look at a dinner between Seth Rogen an adult film actress Stormy Daniels and a featurette concerning Andy’s fantasies. This is the must see flick of the season, one that you will enjoy with many repeat viewings.