The 40 Year Old Virgin Review
A Comedy about the moments that touch us in ways we've never been touched before
The human animal is an incredible piece of biological engineering. Conditioned from birth to procreate, we, as a species, have to perform the sexual act in order to ensure the survival of the race. A biological and scientific, cold, hard fact. Thankfully it is an intensely enjoyable experience, so much so that we, as a species, are no longer tied to a single mating period, as many other species are. However, because of that, we, as a species are more selective in our mating partners, our mind can overcome our sexual desire; it is therefore entirely plausible that a person (or persons) could go through life without ever having sex. Some could argue that this is deviant behaviour, and in a strict logical sense that is true, because the normal path is to procreate. But that is the wonderful thing about our minds, we have independent thought, are able to decide for ourselves. Of course this doesn't take into account peer pressure. Or for that matter media pressure. As both are constantly reminding us of our own sexuality and to get on in life, sex is the normal way. As such, a film portraying a forty year old man that has never had sex before, must be a comedy, as all comedy is tragedy. Funnily enough the original pitch for the film was not about a virgin, but about a man unable to keep up with his friends sexual conquest stories. But I guess a virgin is that much funnier. At least to the twenty somethings that The 40 Year Old Virgin is aimed at.
Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) is a single man, living alone who happens to be a virgin. He seems very fulfilled in his life and is well liked, respected and a nice guy. He works at an electrical store in the store room but is friends with a bunch of younger guys. One fateful evening he joins them for a poker game, where the conversation inevitable turns towards sex, as it does with a bunch of guys, and Andy's inept attempts at story telling about his 'conquests' lead the guys to guess correctly that he is a virgin. He is mortified that his secret is out, even contemplates leaving his job because of it, but the guys, rally together and offer their combined skills and advice with the one goal: to get Andy laid. That is entire plot of the film, right there; the comedy romance. There then follows a number of set pieces that entail humiliation, pain (both physical and emotional) and suffering for poor Andy as his friends try to succeed in their mission; the comedy. During all this Andy meets Trish (Catherine Keener), a divorced woman with children and the two hit it off, slowly at first, before it turns into something more; the romance.
Director Judd Apatow walks a fine line with this movie, the idea itself is not that original and neither, if I am fair, is the delivery, so easily could this film have fallen at the first hurdle by playing vulgar and crass. However Apatow keeps everything on track and with a cast of talented actors and actresses, skilled with improvisation, the film never fully descends into prepubescent humour, but like the characters, maintains a sense of its own worth. That is not to say that some of the comedy isn't puerile, but it's a good puerile. For example trying to pee with an erection (a male problem obviously); your drunken date vomits into your face and fun with condoms. Add to this mix a well seen sense of the work place, especially the sales work place, toss in a dose of pathos, a pinch of humility and a dash of emotion and you are left with a light, heart warming tale. Of course there is never much doubt about where Andy's and Trish's relationship is heading, but the bumps they encounter along the way are enough to keep us interested. The supporting cast too have a depth not often explored in comedies of this nature, the jilted boyfriend, the unfaithful boyfriend and the lucky guy all have enough to their personality as well as undertake a journey, or sorts, themselves bringing together a nice rounded off feel to the film.
The comedy too is good, the many (improvised) verbal sparing scenes are a joy, whether in the work environment, or friends sparring with each other, the famous “you know how I know you're gay?” line coming from one of these improvised scenes. The film rests on the shoulders of Carell, he manages to keep the audience on his side, even when the film makers try to make the utter most of a geek out of him. Just because he's a virgin, doesn't mean that he is a stereotypical geek, or at least it shouldn't, and what's with that hair? But I digress, Carell manages to keep us always on his side by adding enough pathos that we feel for him, he plays a victim of circumstance and we can all relate to that; lines like “I am not interesting, what am I supposed to say” are a clear indication to appeal to the everyman that has suffered doubt about himself. His back story is believable his first few failures at sex would be enough to stop most everyone. However, he is a genuinely nice guy, kind and considerate, everything society dictates should be a good catch for a woman, yet he here remains alone. If there is an underlying message to the film it might be: stop trying, as all good things come to those who wait.
This DVD version is the unrated extended version that contains some seventeen minutes of extra footage compared to the theatrical release. Most of the additional material is more verbal improvisation and swearing, and maybe a few more seconds of Stormy, the porn actress that is in Andy's sexual fantasies. This version clocks in at two and a quarter hours and to be honest it does struggle to maintain that time. Whilst it does fill out the story somewhat I felt it started to drag in the third quarter before it gets right back on track with Andy's breakdown. I was pleasantly surprised by this film, in what could so easily have become another vulgar T&A comedy, we have a tender light heart-warming story with some riotous chuckles thrown in. Billed as the best comedy of 2005, it might just be.