Quick thoughts following a re-viewing of The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005, Judd Apatow)

screened June 24 2007 on DVD in Weehawken NJ IMDb

- This feels much looser than Knocked Up - a very thin and basic premise supplemented with thinly drawn sitcom characters.  It's astounding that they were able to sustain this for the better part of two hours.  How did they do it? By having inherently charismatic actors, and then having them improv, improv, improv those trite set-ups into unexpected  wit:  "we just take everything that's embarrassing and we move it out of here so it doesn't look like you live in Neverland Ranch."

- Something about the rhythm of human speech in this film that gives it the air of freshness.  The actors come off very natural (this can be even harder to do with improv scenarios than with tightly scripted scenes) which is critical since, again, they are playing cartoon types, Steve Carrell in particular.  Catherine Keener is able to add another dimension to her character just in the way she laughs.  Watching her in this made me realize how much she has in common with Barbara Stanwyck - a certain combination of intelligence and lasciviousness.

  - Cinematographically this film is more interesting than Knocked Up, at least in the electronics store where there's clever use of the TV displays.

- I had forgotten that this film also references "Everybody Loves Raymond" (Carrell watches it instead of the many porn tapes Paul Rudd bequeaths to him; in Knocked Up Paul Rudd has the memorable line about life being like an episode of "Raymond" except without the jokes) - what is it with Apatow and that show?

- Again, despite all the superficial laughs, the disposably witty pop culture humor, there is an undertone of sadness and frustration with tinges of social conservatism as a means of establishing order in a wasteland of permissability.  In both films, the fraternal order is a coping mechanism and a proving ground where regressive men-children can be as stupid and ineffectual as they want to be while offering shoddy support and advice for each other in making forays with the opposite sex and clamboring their way to mature, responsible adulthood.  (The critics who see Knocked Up as more of a male love story than a female are missing the point here -- sure the two guys are nostalgic for male fraternity, but there's no question that the film presupposes their friendship as only a temporary refuge that can never entirely conceal or replace the demands of the mature heterosexual living beckoning to them ever more insistently).  This is really what makes these Apatow films so compelling for me, how much they subtly acknowledge the pain of young adult (male) living - I concede that his take on women isn't nearly as complex, though he's made significant strides in that direction between his last two features.