Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: The 40 Year-Old Virgin (Judd Apatow, 2005)

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) is a single 40-year-old man who works in the stockroom of an electronics store called SmartTech. He lives alone, rides a bicycle, watches Survivor on a weekly basis with his elderly neighbours, collects action figures and plays video games. He's a virgin. His mounting failed attempts with women over the years has resulted in his self-substitution out of the game. When a friend drops out of a poker game, Andy's co-workers, Cal (Seth Rogen), Dave (Paul Rudd) and Jay (Romany Malco) invite Andy to join them. At the game, Andy's obvious virginity is exposed after the conversation turns to past sexual exploits. Shocked, but feeling sorry for him, the group decides to help Andy resolve this situation.

Andy finds himself at a singles bar, given the advice by Jay to "tackle drunk bitches", and at a dating round-robin where a buzzer sounds and everyone changes table. Rogen has some of the best lines in the film instructing Andy to "just ask questions" and "be like David Caruso in Jade" when talking to a sexy book store clerk (Elizabeth Banks). Andy's striking boss, Paula (Jane Lynch), who is impressed by his sales skills, promotes him to floor manager and presents the idea of being his 'sex buddy'. Despite all this, when Andy meets Trish (Catherine Keener), a mother of three who works at an Ebay store across the mall, he realises immediately that he likes her. She gives him her number, much to the jubilation of his buddies, and they start dating. Andy's life-long drought looks to be over, but when it comes to relationships and sex, Andy discovers it's not all smooth sailing.

The humour remains uproarious and consistent throughout the first hour or so, but the film eventually gets bogged down, the laughs dry up, unnecessary plot lines are introduced – one where Andy takes Trish’s daughter Marla (Kat Dennings) to a sex education session - and it becomes more of a romantic drama. Andy and Trish’s blossoming relationship progresses through several montages, before exploding when Andy rejects Trish’s sexual advances on their twentieth date (a milestone meant to stipulate sex) in a fit of nervousness and frustration. He gets drunk and depressed and humiliates Trish, before finally sharing his secret.

While Christians undoubtedly poorly received the film because of the it’s initial negative stance on virginity and the promotion of sex before marriage; it does shift that ideology in the second half, as Andy’s friends begin to respect his lifelong abstinence, and when Trish, upon discovering his secret, quite quickly and conveniently dismisses it as no big deal. The film’s conclusion, a lavish, over-the-top musical number with Carell dressed all in white, is meant to be a celebration of Andy’s beautiful act of lovemaking on his wedding night, but by this point I was ready for it to be over, because the uncut version runs at a severely overlong 133 minutes, one of the film’s only ‘shortcomings’.

What is great about this film is the cast. Everyone is perfectly cast. Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd are joined by Romany Malco (Weeds) to make up an awesome foursome. Andy’s friends, who are convinced that sex is a meaningful part of any relationship, experience anxiety because of women. Dave has an emotional breakdown as he continues to obsess over his ex-girlfriend, while Jay’s girlfriend breaks up with him when she learns he had been cheating on her, only to take him back following the discovery that she’s pregnant. Catherine Keener is always good, while Leslie Mann (excellent in Apatow's next feature, Knocked Up) has a small but redundant role as a drunken lunatic who asks Andy to blow into a breathalyser so she can start her car, and then tries to hook up with him while driving.

Steve Carrell is outstanding, infusing Andy with this near-pitiful sadness and an inspiring contentedness. He is a genuine nice guy who is forced to overcome a crippling embarrassment and then surrendered to an unwanted lifestyle change, reluctantly placing himself at the mercy of his buddies. While some of the situations he finds himself in are hilarious and horrifying, his newfound motivation and enlightenment – each of his friends gives him advice (for better or worse) – results in him finding the perfect woman for him. It's a sweet tale.

Having now seen this film twice, the qualms I had the first time round remained. The unrated edition of the film is just too long. While the idea is great, the characters well-written and the improvised dialogue (the vehicle for a superb performance from Carell) consistently brilliant, it's a little uneven and jumps all over the place at the start. There are laughs aplenty for the audience, but when it tries to match the disgusting with the sensitive and it doesn't work as well. I feel if I were to revisit this film again it would be to skip to the film's funniest moments - the classic "you know how I know you're gay?" bit, for example. Still, back in 2005, this was one of the funniest films to hit cinemas. Steve Carell became a bonafide star (before this he had been in Bruce Almighty and Anchorman) and it put several other cast members on the map. It was also Judd Apatow's directorial debut, a man who has now been involved in more comedies than he would care to admit.

My Rating: ★★★★ (B) 


  1. This is still my favorite film from Judd Apatow though I too, preferred the theatrical version.

    I also liked Knocked Up as well though I found Funny People to be overlong with a very messy third act.

  2. The first time I saw this movie, it left completely cold. The second time, I was in pain from laughing so much. It's weird sometimes how a second viewing can help you appreciate a movie that much more.

  3. I just watched this for the first time last weekend, and I really liked it. In saying that, I'm secretly a sucker for R-rated comedies. Good review - I pretty much agree with everything you said!

  4. @ Steven - I haven't seen Funny People, but I have been told it aint great.

    @ Castor - I have enjoyed it both times, and more the second time definitely. It is very very funny. But what I think lifts this above lots of other comedies is the writing and the casting. Excellent characters.

    @ Stevee - Thanks Stevee. It's a blast isn't it? I like the cast. I hate Adam Sandler/Rob Schneider comedies, and Ben Stiller's stuff is hit-and-miss, but something about a combination of Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera (amongst others) really works for me.

  5. Definitely preferred KNOCKED UP and SUPERBAD, though to be honest this was nowhere near as bad as FUNNY PEOPLE.

  6. I agree. I still enjoy this, but for me, Knocked Up and Superbad are better films. I haven't seen Funny People. I have no intention either...

  7. I watched this movie some years ago and I have to say I enjoyed it a lot. A very effective comedy not afraid to get a little raunchy but never too much, Steve Carell is terrific here, as is the script he penned with Apatow. Rogen and so many of the other actors in every successive Apatow production are here, but somehow a little more likeable, and a lot funnier.

  8. I think this has dropped below Knocked Up and Superbad for me, following some recent viewings - but still I think there are some great scenes in this. I agree, Carell is great, and Rogen, Rudd and the other supporting characters are all at their best. I think it is too long, and the second half is more committed to drama than comedy - but overall, this is a 2005 comedy classic.