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The 40 Year Old Virgin

January 25, 2018

The 40 Year Old Virgin (2004)
Director: Judd Apatow
Actors: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd

Synopsis: At the behest of his work colleagues, 40 year old tech geek, Andy (Steve Carell), vows to lose his virginity.

Review: The Judd Apatow Stunted Male Maturity genre was kicked off in the mid-noughties with this – his directorial debut – and, in many respects, the most apt of subject matters: a man-child who has sleepwalked into middle age without losing that most symbolic vestige of the rites of adulthood – his virginity.

Within its very mainstream, crowd-pleasing confines The 40 Year Old Virgin is actually a pretty enjoyable confection with a high gag quotient. My only two marginal contentions are the exaggerated extent to which Apatow signposts Steve Carell’s titular virgin, Andy, as the archetypal boy trapped in a man’s body. His home kitted out in the most ridiculous level of OCD toy fetish is so far removed from any form of discernible reality that it risks making untenable some of the more resonant areas of its discourse. Also, the one sequence where Leslie Mann’s drunk floozy attempts to drive a gauche Andy home for a night of passion is queasy in that it seems to play entirely for laughs, and offers no attempt to even subtly reproach, what is actually highly dangerous and deeply irresponsible drink driving (or, as the film seems to exalt in showing the hi-jinks of – it’s almost ‘paralytic driving’).

Better is the film’s overall sweet and humane feel. What becomes clear early on is that Andy’s virginity is not going to be played for out and out derision, but more through the lens of a man’s life that suddenly became very hermetic and insular in his early twenties, and – before he knew it – he’s reached the age of 40 and his ability and desire to engage with women just seems to have passed him by. Jane Lynch’s cameo role as Andy’s electronic store manager is also one of the finer pleasures of this film. She almost steals the film in an inspired, and presumably partly improvised, monologue, when she cottons on to Andy’s newfound zest to sleep with women by none-too-subtly suggesting they become “friends with benefits”! (January 2018)

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