Monday 20 October 2014

Movie Review: The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)

An uproarious sex comedy, The 40 Year-Old Virgin hits all its targets by mixing wild humour with the gentle awkwardness of a man struggling to make the jump into full adulthood.

Andy (Steve Carell) is a lonely 40 year old, living on his own and working in the stockroom of a technology superstore. Andy is into comic books and toy collectibles, and has no social life to speak of. His work colleagues include David (Paul Rudd), still not over a failed relationship, Jay (Romany Malco), a loud and fast-talking ladies man, and Cal (Seth Rogen) who is smarter than he looks and in search of kinkier experiences. When Andy's co-workers find out that he is still a virgin and has almost given up looking for a meaningful relationship, they set about trying to help him.

Andy is hesitant but starts to take the advice of his new friends. Predictably, most of the experiences end in disaster. However, he does slowly gain some confidence to interact with women, and local business owner Trish (Catherine Keener) catches his eye. Bookstore clerk Beth (Elizabeth Banks) is also a potential partner, while Andy's boss and store manager Paula (Jane Lynch) graciously offers her services to help him with his predicament. But Andy gathers up his courage and embarks on a relationship with Trish without revealing to her that he is a virgin, and also gets to know her teenaged daughter Marla (Kat Dennings), herself grappling with upcoming initial sexual experience issues.

Directed by Judd Apatow, who co-wrote with Carell, The 40-Year Old Virgin is a laugh-fest driven both by characters and situations. Andy and his friends are just on the right side of believable as underachieving men searching for new ways to remain irresponsible, keeping the film away from farce. The comic set-pieces also maintain a toehold in the realm of the possible, from Andy receiving a chest waxing to joining Marla at a pregnancy prevention clinic.

The wilder moments are more hit and miss. A highlight is Andy, whose driving skills are limited to a bicycle, getting trapped into a car ride from hell with a very drunk driver in the form of club girl Nicky (Leslie Mann, Mrs. Apatow in a memorable and nonchalantly oblivious turn). Not as funny is a truncated and unnecessary encounter with a transvestite prostitute.

Amidst the mayhem, the film manages to explore the role of sex in a relationship from the male perspective. An annoying hindrance, an absolute necessity, a dangerous distraction, and the ultimate expression of commitment, sex proves to be important in all the ways that Andy feared and craved. Meanwhile, David, Jay and Cal also get their own dose of sexual education, and not in any way that they expected.

Steve Carell is crucial to the film's success, and his performance as Andy nails the essentially likable man drifting into a life of loneliness due more to inertia than any actual hang-up. Catherine Keener emerges as the perfect counterpart, a woman who has had perhaps too much life happen to her too soon, and is happy to go slow with a man who clearly needs to.

The supporting cast is rich in comic talent, with Apatow frequently deploying them in an undercurrent of dangerous mischievousness rather than brazen madcappery.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin is prodded out of his comfort zone and onto the path of responsibility in an adult world. And it's a laugh-out-loud transition, worth the years of waiting in unintended abstinence.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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