I had a terrible, sinking feeling in my stomach as I watched this movie at the matinee in Santa Monica on Sunday. Not because it wasn't funny - if you don't mind crass and boorish humor, it was hilarious. No, the terrible sinking feeling came because it hit a little too close to home. The movie is about Andy (Steve Carrel), the titular 40 year old virgin, who can't manage to have sex with a girl because ... well, mostly because he's clueless. He's a pleasant guy, who makes an effort to be kind to people - but when it comes to women he's so out of his league that he just doesn't know what to do. His cow-orkers, when they learn of his predicament, take it upon themselves to "fix" his problem.
Each of the cow-orkers is their own flavor of disgusting - from the overly sensitive David (shut up!) who can't let go of an old relationship (shut up!) (Paul Rudd) , to Cal (Seth Rogen) , a be-tattooed frat-boy who is the sort who goes to the donkey show in Tijuana, and the street-smart but perpetually unfaithful Jay (Romany Malco) who exhorts Andy to "get with the hood-rats" and calls himself "Dr. Montalban" at a speed-dating event. They're all hopelessly emotionally crippled in their relentless quest for sex without intimacy, but they're also in their own way, decent guys who want to "fix" Andy. It's the not-too-subtle subtext of the movie that there's nothing really wrong with Andy, he's more generous and authentic than any of his more sexually active friends.
There is obligatory bathroom humor that shouldn't be funny, but is. There's outrageous sexual esapades with women that are as much caricatures of real women as are Andy's cow-orkers. But what hits a little too close to home for me, is that Andy's way of dealing with his own isolation and loneliness is to throw himself whole-heartedly into hobbies and pursuits. He collects action-figures, he reads comic books, he plays video games....he even paints historical miniatures. I winced. Further, Andy works at a tech store that was filmed on Ventura Blvd, just a few blocks from where I currently work. And his love interest, Trish (Katherine Keener) owns an "We sell it for you on Ebay" store that, according to her business card in the movie, is actually on the same block of Venture Blvd where I am currently sitting.
Carrel's performance echoes his hilarious turn as "Brick" Hamblin in Anchorman. He's absolutely deadpan in a socially squirmy way - but in Anchorman, that was the extent of his character. Andy, however, retreats behind his clueless straight-man-act as a defense mechanism, and Carrel does let the audience see the chinks in his armor from time to time. Keener, as the straight-woman to an already dead-pan funnyman has a hard job, but fills in the gaps in their relationship with a sort of loopy, flaky California-girl act that rings true, and is very endearing. Trish knows how things are supposed to feel, but doesn't always know how to get there, but we never doubt she's trying her hardest, no matter how embarassing her mis-steps are. (Because Andy's are even worse!)
The movie, as a whole, is pretty damn funny, and co-writer and director Judd Apatow manages to hit an authentic but funny tone with his characters. There are moments, though, that stand out - like when Cal, David and Jay take Andy to get his chest-waxed. Andy let's loose with bellowed streams of profanity when the aesthetician yanks the waxed linen strips off. She recoils in horror at his reaction, and it's hard to tell, but it might actually be the actress that's cracking up at Carell, as she carefully lays the furry strips next to him on the table and keeps yanking.
As a sex farce, "40 Year Old Virgin" works. As an eerie comment on how geeks manage to fill in the lonely nooks and crannies of