You may have read my post on Tuesday during which I went fucking mental about the novel Losing It by Emma Rathbone. The book tells the story of a 26 year-old woman who was desperate to finally have sex after so many years. In the days that followed the posts uploading I have calmed down a little but I still really hate the book. It gave a horrible image of women and strengthened the idea that a life without sex is something to be ashamed of. In many of the reviews I’d read about the book, critics declared it to be the literary and female version of the Judd Apatow film The 40 Year-Old Virgin. I’m going to blame this comparison with the fact that I was so desperate to read this book. I remember first watching the film when I was 16 with my friends. I really enjoyed it. Steve Carell and the rest of the cast were really funny and the film ended up being quite sympathetic to the plight of it’s main character. So, after the disappointment of the book, I felt it was time to revisit the film to see if my judgement is just off or if critics are just so lazy that they’ll compare a book about virginity with the only other really famous thing to also do so.
It seems weird to think that, before 2005, Steve Carell wasn’t famous enough to play the lead in a film. Especially when you remember that he was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar 9 years later. It was The 40 Year-Old Virgin that gave Carell his first lead role in a film and he has never really looked back since. Alongside his much-loved turn as Michael Scott in the American version of The Office, it was this film that pushed the star firmly into the limelight and determined his place as a true comic genius. By the time it was made, he had already shone in his supporting roles in Bruce Almighty and Anchorman and this gave him the chance to show audiences what he really did best.
Which, as it turns out, it create a sympathetic portrayal of a geeky, shy man who has got through life failing to understand dating and women. Watching this film again now as weird because, when you think about it, it’s not the kind of film you could make nowadays. Especially when, as the Big Bang Theory is so keen to remind us in its unrelentingly sub-par manner, that geeks are sexy, I’m not suggesting that the premise is no longer relevant but the idea that a man who collects action figures and loves comic books is automatically not going to find a woman. Geek is chic and, according to the internet, people are so desperate to seem cool that they’re fraudulently claiming to be into geek culture.
However, 2005 was clearly a different time. We didn’t Tinder and internet dating so men like Andy, our main character, were considered weird. So, after several failed attempts during his youth, Andy has given up on sex. He’s got through his life pretending to have an active social life and awkwardly getting out of any difficult or personal questions. He lives a pretty solitary life and he’s as happy as he can expect to be. Until his colleagues find out about his predicament and decide to help get Andy laid. Turns out its easy for Andy to meet women and not one but 3 women who would willingly have sex with him come along without any real effort on his part. Still, he fails to get the job done with any of these women but, instead, starts a romantic relationship with Trish (Catherine Keener). This piles on the pressure meaning Andy gets more and more nervous about finally getting his end away. So he just puts it off. Clearly, because this is Hollywood, it all comes out in dramatic style.
The 40 Year-Old Virgin is the kind of comedy that has stood the test of time despite being so fucking dated. I mean there is a scene discussing the end of VHS and the introduction of DVDs. It’s a different world. The humour, though, really stands up and the cast all do well in finding the humour in the situation without being mean. That was the truly refreshing thing about the film after reading the dismal Losing It. After some initial banter, there is never a moment wher people paint Andy as a huge freak because he hasn’t had sex. There is no sense that anyone but himself is trying to make him feel bad about it. Yes, his make friends get quite bro-happy about finding Andy some pussy but it all feels as though their heart is in the right place.
My only major criticism of the film is regarding its length;. What I’d forgotten about, or at least, not appreciated at the time, is that The 40 Year-Old Virgin is fucking long. It comes in at just over 2 hours which feels incredibly long for a film based around this pretty flimsy narrative. That’s why it’s jam packed with so many side-plots, random moments of improvisation, and numerous joke call backs. It’s all supposed to flesh out the main story but none of these stories feel worth my time. The plot repeats itself so many times you might as well be watching Groudnhog Day. Then there’s the endless supply of side plots: There’s the strand concerning Paul Rudd’s inability to get over his ex, Romany Malco’s Jay keeps his womanising from his girlfriend ntil he discovers she’s pregnant, and the weird but sexually successful Cal, payed by Seth Rogen, is just being an awful stoner who swears a lot. And that’s just the main ones. There’s so much going on that it just makes the film seem slow and puts off the inevitable for self-indulgent reasons.
Still, there are some truly funny and memorable moments in this film and it’s still worth a watch. Steve Carell is fantastic and there are some fantastic improvised interactions between the rest of the cast. Overall, it is a touching and silly love story that manages to take a potentially dangerous story and make it sympathetic instead of judgemental. It might not be as good as I thought it was at 16 but it’s still a wonderfully entertaining film. If only it were much shorter.