After watching this again recently, I’m happy to report that Judd Apatow’s directorial debut is still as fresh and funny as it was when it was released 8 years ago. Based on a routine that Steve Carrell did back when he was a member of Second City, “The 40-Year Old Virgin” pulls off an extremely tricky balancing act: an extremely raunchy, painfully funny film that also contains a lot of heart. I realize the “raunch with heart” genre has become a cliche unto itself, but Apatow perfected this genre and in my opinion, has a better batting average than most directors.
The scene above is the now-classic scene where Steve Carrell’s 40-year old virgin character tries to fake his way through a bull session with “the guys.” As a late bloomer who suffered through many of these sessions in high school and college, the only thing I can say about this scene is … Carrell’s character pulls it off way better than I ever did. Though I think every guy, regardless of the age they lost their virginity, was in Carrell’s position at some point. And, this is why the scene is a classic.
As a bonus, I’ve also attached the scene where Carrell’s character attempts a hook-up with an extremely drunk woman he’s met at a bar, played by Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann. According to the DVD commentary, Mann prepared for this role by getting s–tfaced with Seth Rogen and having Rogen videotape her so she could later imitate her drunken self for the film. She said it was one of the most painful things she’s ever witnessed, because before then, she said she was under the delusion she was funny and charming when drunk.
This is one of the most realistic scenes of marriage malaise I’ve ever seen. And not because it involves any of the parties doing anything heinous, like starting an affair, or gambling away the family fortune, or becoming a porn, booze, or drug addict.
No, what starts this crisis is the husband making unexplained disappearances … to spend time by himself because he needs a break. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. Except for the fact that his wife needs a break too. And maybe … actually wants to have a break where she spends time with her husband. On the surface, the husband’s desire to see “Spiderman 3” by himself doesn’t seem like a big deal. And that’s sort of correct. But the wife’s reaction … and the knowledge that her husband wants to spend time away from her … is not wrong either. Leslie Mann’s pained reaction to her husband’s actions breaks my heart every time I see it. Key line: “You just think because you don’t yell that you’re not mean.”
By the way, if you can get the accompanying clip to work, more power to you. I can’t find this clip anywhere else and I can only get the clip to work on my phone. So, that’s why I’ve included a transcript of the scene below:
Pete: It’s just that I know you’ve been mad ’cause I’ve been working so much, and I didn’t want to upset you.
Debbie: I wouldn’t be mad. I don’t get mad.
Pet: It’s a fantasy baseball draft. I’m not cheating or anything.
Debbie: No, this is worse.
Pete: How is this worse?
Debbie: This is you wanting to be with your friends more than your family.
Pete: Look, the reason I make that up is because if I told you what I was really doing, you would just get mad. So you think I’m seeing a band, I do my fantasy draft, and it’s win-win.
Debbie: Well, what’d you do last Wednesday night when you said you went to see a band?
Pete: I went to the movies.
Debbie: With who?
Pete: By myself.
Debbie: What’d you see?
Pete: Spider-Man 3.
Debbie: Why do you want to go by yourself? Why didn’t you ask me to go?
Pete: Because I needed to get away, you know. With work and you and the kids, sometimes I just need some time to myself.
Debbie: I need time for myself. I want time for myself, too. You’re not the only one.
Pete: It’s not that big of a deal.
Debbie: I like Spider-Man.
Pete: Okay, so let’s see Spider-Man 3 next week.
Debbie: I don’t wanna go see it now. I don’t wanna have to ask you to ask me. I want you to just come up with it on your own.
Pete: I don’t even know what to say. What do you want me to do?
Debbie: You just think because you don’t yell that you’re not mean, but this is mean.
Pete: I’m not being mean. I’m being honest. You’re telling me I need to be honest.
Debbie: No, you’re not. You’re lying.
Pete: I’m doing it because I need to keep my sanity a little bit.
Debbie: You know what? I don’t want you at the house anymore, okay?
Yes, at its worst, I realize this looks like a Gen-X version of “Thirtysomething” with a few f-bombs thrown in. However, I really think it’s going to be much better than that. Apatow is a great, astute writer and despite his popularity, is unfairly dismissed by many folks as the guy who popularized “d–k jokes with heart.” I’m a huge fan of Apatow’s … loved not only all of his films, but also two of the TV shows he had a hand in (“Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared.”) Paul Rudd’s and Leslie Mann’s characters were the best part of Apatow’s “Knocked Up” and I’m very pleased to see Apatow made a follow-up exploring those characters’ lives.