Without a doubt, Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) is one of
us. His taste may not be the greatest, as he has a framed
Marvel Age comic book on his wall, but he more than makes
up for that with the sheer volume of his collections. At
one point, he admits to having 47 G.I. Joes (we assume the
classic version) in their original packaging. For some,
he would seem to have a perfect life, but for one thing.
He is The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Once that fact slips out, co-writer/director Judd Apatow
can get his plot rolling. To be fair to those that savor
structure, it's really not much of a plot, more a series
of black-out sketches detailing Andy's inner life and his
friends' struggle to get him in bed with a woman. But it
works, and manages to be both outrageous and low-key.
Building from a sketch set at a poker game, co-writer
Carell carefully explores his character but also gives his
co-stars plenty to work with. This is a hard film to explain,
as it has a pretty positive message but doesn't shy away
from just how gross guys can be when they hang out together.
And they are gross, in various states of arrested development
when it comes to women. Jay (Romany Malco) thinks of himself
as a true playa, advising Andy that he's got to set his
sights low so he can get some experience before finding
the woman he really wants.
Agreeing but with a different energy, Cal (Seth Rogen)
coaches Andy in seeming aloof and mysterious to bookstore
clerk Beth (Elizabeth Banks). It works, but not quite the
way Cal had intended.
Rounding out Andy's circle of friends, Paul Rudd turns
his confident persona on its ear as David. The guy may have
the healthiest attitude out of the three, but he's fixated
on a relationship he had two years earlier. The script is
smart enough to sneak in both sides of the story, too, for
As for Andy, he just wants to find somebody nice. Being
a virgin isn't so much a conscious decision as it just never
quite worked out. And we see how it didn't quite work out
in a montage of cringe-inducing scenes. When single mom
(and hot Grandma) Trish (Catherine Keener) literally walks
into his life, it's clear that for Andy, a relationship
is both destined and too much work.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is not a perfect comedy.
Though the laughs keep coming, a few scenes show the seams
of being tacked onto a sketch idea. Trish owns a "We Sell
It On eBay For You" store. Though such things do exist and
Carell and Apatow try to do something with it, the scene
set in that store ends up being weird and goes nowhere.
The concept works, as it provides a turning point for Andy.
When Trish suggests he sell his collection so he can open
a stereo store, it's not just Andy that freezes. The whole
audience does. Be warned that for just a moment, this is
a horror film.
It's also still hard to decide if the idea of Trish having
a 21-year-old with a daughter herself makes any sense, as
they're the only two characters referenced that never appear,
though they weigh heavily upon the guys' estimation of Trish.
Apatow hasn't quite adjusted to directing for the big
screen yet, either. The lighting has a flat feel more suited
to television, and many scenes are framed for the boob tube.
But he also has an incredible touch for capturing nuance,
as he showed in series like Freaks
and Geeks and Undeclared. Brilliant but slightly
offbeat actors like Carell, that can deliver funny but natural
cadences, need directors like Apatow.
And then there's the chest-waxing scene. Shot live, and
quite possibly with a hapless real-life beautician (she
can't decide if she's horrified or amused by the cursing
Carell throws at her), it may be the single most brilliant
comedy scene of the year.
In a movie with a lot of winners like that, it's easy
to forgive the flaws.