The 40 Year-Old Virgin
—About this Film
I’m not sure what’s happening this summer with Wedding Crashers and this movie—both unapologetically R-rated in a world of endless PG-13s, both unabashedly un-PC, both hilarious yet oftentimes awkward to watch with a theater full of strangers, yet both with “hearts of gold” when it comes down to it. I’m not sure what’s happening, but I like it.
[Careful! Don’t step in the Spoilers!]
Like Wedding Crashers, the premise of The 40 Year-Old Virgin is right in the title. Steve Carell plays Andy, the titular virgin, who is an action-figure collecting, video game playing, figurine painting, bicycle riding, retro 70s nice guy. He works at a thinly veiled parody of Circuit City, along with the other three of the film’s four main male characters—one a fairly stereotypical black character, one a fairly stereotypical pot-smoking character (well, they all smoke pot), and one who’s fairly stereotypically torn-up over losing his girlfriend, so he’s jaded about women, blah, blah.
When Andy’s co-workers find out that he is, uh, intercourse impaired, they set about to “get him some.” And there you go. That’s the movie. Of course, along the way to getting him some, there’s gobs of funny stuff—a hilarious chest hair waxing scene that invokes Carell’s Tourette’s-inspired outbursts from Bruce Almighty, drunk girls, speed dating, an aggressive boss, a box o’ porn, a great musical bit at the end. And, of course, along the way it starts to become apparent that getting Andy some isn’t that simple, especially when he goes and meets Trish (Catherine Keener)—a woman he starts to fall for.
Though his new friends warn him that he should hook up with a few “hood rats” first, rather than let his first time be with someone he actually likes, Andy doesn’t listen. But his to-be-first encounter with Trish is foiled by her teenaged daughter walking in. Then Andy and Trish decide to put sex off for twenty dates. Twenty dates and a legitimate relationship later, the encounter doesn’t happen again. Andy hasn’t told her about his being a virgin yet, Trish thinks he’s keeping some darker secret, he runs from her, she from him, cue big romantic comedy ending, cue wedding, cue Andy finally “getting some” at the very end. Yes, that’s right: Andy doesn’t lose his virginity until his wedding night. That’s how the movie ends—well, with that and a song from Hair.
And it is this ending, along with all the thematic material leading up to it, that gives this movie the “heart of gold” I mentioned. In the end, this is not a movie about “getting some.” It’s really a movie about how being a virgin, ultimately, uncomplicates things. Andy’s friends live lives, ultimately, complicated by women, relationships, and sex. Andy’s Pee Wee Hermanesque lifestyle, by comparison, seems better—and he ends up with true love and a wife anyhow. In fact, it is the nerdy portrayal of Andy that is the only negative thing this movie has to say about virginity. 40 Year-Old Virgin does, after all, tell a story about a man who waits for marriage to have sex, although that man is presented as not having had sex because of his nerdiness. But you know, by the end, I even think that portrayal softens—Andy’s not nerdy, just unique, principled maybe, maybe even quirkily cool, definitely himself.
This positive message, along with the laughs, is enough to recommend this movie alone. But there’s more: this movie has to be recommended for how deliberately un-PC it is. There’s some race/gender/sexuality humor here that most movies won’t even mess with anymore—the kind of stuff you might see in late 70s and early 80s cinema—and I for one enjoy the move. Seriously, though sophistication in this area is important, people should know when stereotypes are being stereotypes just for fun, and this is exactly the kind of movie to teach sensitive people to not be so sensitive.
I also enjoy the melding of genres that this movie, along with Wedding Crashers and others, represents. I like pure comedy. I like romantic comedy. Go ahead, put ‘em together—I like that too. Yes, this movie pretty strictly adheres to the conventions of both genres, but that’s alright when it’s done well. 40 Year Old Virgin gains its uniqueness in other ways: the positive message smuggled in among f-bombs and breasts, the pro-abstinence angle (name another movie that even comes close to it), the fact that, though the characters and plot here seem pretty cardboard-cutout, as mentioned before, there’s also just enough depth to make you feel like these people are living lives and doing things beyond what’s seen on the screen.
On the briefly negative side, this movie does at times feel like Carell and Apatow, who co-wrote the script, used it as a dumping ground for random things they thought were funny. This gives the film a vaguely self-indulgent feel, and makes it a bit too long. And, though the underlying message is very positive, spiritually speaking, the movie itself is also just as bawdy and raunchy as you’d expect. So if that bothers you—if you can’t see past the penis jokes to the light at the end of the tunnel—maybe don’t see it.
I for one hope this trend in cinema continues. I hope to see more R-rated comedies with positive messages, and maybe less PG-13 comedies with negative, ambiguous, irrelevant, or absent messages. Summer ‘O5: the summer of dirty little movies, with minds leaning towards the clean. Works for me.