The 40 Year old Virgin

by Carolyn Petit

The 40-Year-Old Virgin wasn’t quite as funny as I thought it was gonna be.

That’s okay, though. It made up for it by being a hell of a lot sweeter, more romantic, and more intelligent than I thought it was gonna be.

Now before all you adolescent males who are reading my review in the hopes of finding out whether or not it’s a raunchy and hilarious sex comedy get your panties in a bunch over me using words like romantic and intelligent to describe it, let me make this clear: The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a raunchy and hilarious sex comedy. It’s just that it’s so much more than that, too. This movie could have been about a freak, a complete loser who we don’t understand and for whom we have no real empathy, someone we can all point and laugh at and then leave feeling better about ourselves, our own sense of normalcy reinforced (except, of course, for all the pathetic forty-year-old virgins in the audience. What a bunch of losers!). But instead, in Andy Stitzer, played brilliantly by Steve Carell (who co-wrote the film with director Judd Apatow), the movie gives us a guy who has understandable reasons for ending up where he is; a sweet, charming, funny, vaguely sad guy we can’t help but root for.

The movie’s wonderful poster gives the impression that Andy is as pure as the driven snow, a sort of angelic man-child. He’s not. His body, the movie makes irrefutably clear, wants sex, even if his twice-shy heart tells him to run like mad from any situation that might lead there and just stay cooped up in his apartment, alone, occupying himself in other ways. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying video games, playing a musical instrument, or painting figurines, but for Andy these things aren’t so much hobbies as they are insulation from a world he’s too frightened to engage in. He’s like one of those action figures he keeps on the shelf, still encased in its original protective packaging. And who can blame him for being a bit reclusive? In a society that sends the message that if you haven’t had sex by a certain age, there’s clearly something wrong with you, what’s a forty-year-old virgin to do? (Well, maybe he should start by taking down the poster of magician Doug Henning from his wall. That is kinda gay.) In his reclusion, it’s not just sex he’s missing out on. It’s meaningful connection with his fellow human beings, male and female. For some reason he finds it hard to follow up his co-workers’ tales of adventure and debauchery. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the most exciting thing he did last weekend was hunt down the ingredients for an egg salad sandwich. But after a few of his coworkers at the electronics superstore make it their mission to help him get some action, he remarks to one of them, “Do you realize this is the first time we’ve talked for more than like thirty seconds? It’s kinda nice.” And just as they learn that Andy isn’t the complete loser they always wrote him off as, he learns that there’s a bit more to them than just screwing women or watching women get screwed by horses in Tijuana. It turns out they also enjoy Everybody Loves Raymond, for reasons I’ll never, ever comprehend.

If Carell’s winning performance as Andy is the movie’s first stroke of brilliance, its second is in casting the lovely and amazing Catherine Keener as Trish, a woman who runs one of those weird “We Sell Your Stuff on eBay” stores and who we instantly understand Andy’s attraction for. Not only are they like two sides of a coin–while he surrounds himself with material goods, her business is in sending them far away, and that’s gotta be good for Andy–but there’s also oodles more chemistry between the two romantic leads in this goofy little movie than there is between the stars of most more traditional romantic comedies, and Keener’s character here is so radiant and charming that the audience falls in love with her right along with Andy. And as they fall in love and Andy works through his fears, we begin to understand how she is falling in love with him, too. When he puts himself out there and gives himself a chance, he’s actually a funny guy, and sure, when he does magic tricks for Trish’s daughter, it’s a little geeky, but it’s also sweet and endearing, and we get the sense that those are things that none of the men Trish has been with before ever were.

Yes, when Andy tells her that he used to be worried that there was something wrong with him, but now he knows he was just waiting for her, my heart just melted, and the movie’s surprising final sequence hearkens back to a bygone era of love and beauty and innocence. Oh, and it’s fuckin’ hilarious, too.

Rating: A-

  • The 40 Year old Virgin
  • by Carolyn Petit
  • Published on September 1st, 2005
The 40 Year old Virgin
Judd Apatow
Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd.

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