If the just announced Palme d’ Or winner at Cannes “4 Months, 3
Weeks and 2 Days” went mano-a-mano at the box office with “Knocked Up,” Judd Apatow’s new comedy about sexual mores, which
do you think would win?
Here’s a hint: the former has been described as “a devastating Romanian film on back-alley
abortion and daily despair in the communist era.” The latter as film that “wants you to laugh
(but not only laugh, and not in a mean way) about…out-of-wedlock pregnancy?!?”
haven’t seen the much lauded Cannes
winner yet, but I have seen Apatow’s new film and quite frankly, after the
hilarity and seeming integrity of "40-Year-Old
Virgin," I was disappointed. It might be the most dishonest movie of the
year, cashing in on the hot button topics sensationally suggested by the title
and then cravenly refusing to confront them.
In it a 23-year-old career woman has a one-night stand with a
loutish pick-up in a bar. She immediately forgets him until a few weeks later
when she discovers that she’s pregnant. Does she consider abortion? It’s referred to as the
“A-word” in one jokey scene it
is never raised again. Instead, she and the now chastened former slacker, a complete
stranger mind you, decide to put aside their lives up until then, become a couple and raise the
Okay, I understand that nobody wants to get the Moral Majority on
their ass about their picture. And anyway the film has already made plenty of concessions to the bong,
beer and boob crowd with its priapic humor and pop cultural riffs. As Stephen
Rodrick notes in his otherwise butt-kissing "New York Times Magazine" profile (the above wacky “out-of
wedlock pregnancy?!!” quote was taken from the article's headline), “Both of the
films Apatow has directed offer up the kind of conservative morals the Family
Research Council might embrace — if the humor weren’t so filthy.”
No, what bugs me more than his evasion of one of the most flagrant issues
raised by the film is that Apatow obviously sees how this kind of unthinking
social and moral conformity can arouse rage and resentment. But he refuses to
come to terms with that issue as well, either comically or dramatically.
Instead, he defuses the tension by posing an alternative couple,
the pregnant woman’s sister, a castrating harpy (played by Apatow’s own wife, Leslie
Mann) and her husband. The sister's irrational and hateful abuse of her far more sympathetic, and
funnier, husband amounts to a co-dependent, sado-masochistic version of
domestic bliss, which in the end everyone, nonetheless, seems to embrace.
That and a couple of outbursts of seemingly gratuitous, utterly
unfunny and misdirected rage and self-loathing suggest that beneath the film’s
hip, scatalogical humor and sentimental acceptance of conservative family
values lies unacknowledged doubts and despair about the institutions of
marriage and parenthood. Had he been honest about these issues, Apatow might
have turned out a darker, funnier, more disturbing comedy. But then he’d have
about as much luck at the box office as a prize-winning film from Romania.