I remember when The 40-Year-Old Virgin came out: it looked tremendously unappealing, but I went to see it on the strength of the reviews, and it was actually really good. Judd Apatow’s new movie Knocked Up, which comes out on Friday, also looks tremendously unappealing but is getting great reviews. So I’ll go see it. (This will also give me another opportunity to announce “I went to high school with her!”)
The New York Times ran a profile of Apatow in their Sunday magazine entitled “Judd Apatow’s Family Values” which suggests that the films are driven by a certain conservative sensibility:
Both of the films Apatow has directed offer up the kind of conservative morals the Family Research Council might embrace — if the humor weren’t so filthy. In “Virgin,” the title character is saving himself for true love. “Knocked Up,” which opens on June 1, revolves around a good-hearted doofus who copes with an unplanned pregnancy by getting a job and eliminating the bong hits. In each of the films, the hero is nearly led astray by buddies who tempt with things like boxes of porn, transvestite hookers and an ideology about the ladies possibly learned from scanning Maxim while scarfing down Pop-Tarts. By the end, Apatow exposes the friends as well meaning but comically pathetic and steers his men toward doing the right thing.
Apatow more-or-less confirms this take in a quote further down the first page, but nevertheless it struck me as a very strange reading of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I don’t know what movie Apatow thought he was making, but in the one I saw there was no suggestion at any point that the Steve Carell character was “saving himself”, or taking any principled stand whatsoever. Rather, the obstacle for him was his shyness, which prevented him from having any meaningful human interactions at all, much less a sexual relationship. Consequently the whole narrative arc of the movie is about him gradually overcoming his shyness and expanding the scope of his relationships with other people. There’s no suggestion that the protagonist is ever opposed to casual sex. On the other hand, I always wondered at the non-sequitur marriage in the film’s resolution: it seemed so unnecessary that it could have been tacked on just to make some kind of statement against premarital sex. But one could equally well read the marriage as a metaphor for the kind of ceremonial significance that the act had taken on, so I’m not totally convinced.
Knocked Up is a harder case to assess, not least because I haven’t seen it yet. (Maybe I’ll get another post out of this topic next week.) The ads I’ve seen show Seth Rogan’s highly punchable face with the tagline, “What if this guy got you pregnant?” The movie’s answer seems to be “consider starting a family with him even though your prior history consists of a one-night stand.” Far from “doing the right thing” as the Times piece says, this in real life would be considered a terrible idea. Unless this movie is set a few years into the future, after the Roberts Court has had its way with reproductive rights in America, it will have to provide some pretty strong motivation for pursuing this particular option, and I am curious to see how it does so. Fortunately, if 40-Year-Old Virgin is any guide, Apatow will completely fail to make a social-conservative morality play while succeeding in making a very funny comedy, so I’m looking forward to it.
However, I’m not really looking forward to this scene:
When Alison is in the delivery room, the stage direction simply read, “You see everything.” There would be three shots of the baby crowning. It promised to be the most graphic birth ever shown in a suburban multiplex.
I would really rather not have the impression that I am watching Katherine Heigl give birth. That would creep me out—after all, I went to high school with her.