Monday, June 04, 2007

Knocked Up

Judd Apatow, man. What can I say. Maybe he's caught up with the rest of the world, maybe it's the rest of the world that's caught up with him. But he really can do no wrong at this point. While Knocked Up isn't quite as good as The Forty Year-Old Virgin (but, then, what is?), it nevertheless brims with all those qualities that made the latter movie so great: an abundance of honesty, of sweetness, a lack of cynicism, vibrant characters, and hilarity by the metric ton.

Apatow, if he's anything, is just an incredibly humane storyteller. He's able to show his characters at their most vulnerable and on their worst behavior, but he never loses sight of this wellspring of human kindness that he obviously faithfully believes in and is willing to go to lengths to depict. What makes his characters somewhat unique is that their failings are never depicted as moral failings. It's the easy way out: paint a character as having some tiny, mean-minded flaw, like all life is about is getting that last vestige of dickhead out of your system--that life inevitably leads some people to become good people. But life's not like that. Life's more of a journey where good people struggle to learn how to become better people. And for the second movie in a row, he makes it clear that all the truly flavorful stuff in life--the humor, the poignance, the rare moments of inspiration--all sort of stem from that difficult pursuit. He's just a freaky genius. And he's got good Munich jokes.

But really, he sort of had me when he started the movie with some ODB. That's how all movies should start.


the g said...

agreed, for the most part. although I thought dana steven's slate review was pretty right on- the dudes get all the laughs, the chicks on the other hand just come off... shrewish? dull? both? I can't decide.

All except Jody, who ruled.

Blogs t r e t c h said...

A combination of yours and the g's points would have been my review. Especially the ODB part. As soon as that music came up I knew JA had won me over yet again.

But seriously, the women in this movie were, for the most part, huge pains in the ass. Not bad or hateful people, just not nearly as deeply drawn as the men.

The Deceiver said...

With respect, I disagree. I think that too many people are confusing being cut in on the comedy bits as a sign of character depth. Rogan's roommates, for example, are well deployed in the interest of humor, but they are all two-dimensional.

I think that the criticism of Apatow is founded mainly on Emily Mann's character. Clearly, she is a flawed character, and her performance is at times shrill and humorless.

But, the most important character in the film is Katherine Heigl's, and for my money, it's a character of considerable depth and imagination, and Heigl, who's very good at magnifying simple conviction plays it exceedingly well.

Does Heigl get to participate in a lot of gags? No. She's more or less the straight woman amid a carnival of absurdist humor. That's done for a reason, though. While everyone else is faking their way through life, she's the film's true ASPIRANT. She's the one that's worked hardest to get on the path to a happy life. But then she gets pregnant, and it throws her entire world out of order. The story is about the reconciling of two things that seem to oppose one another--the sensible life Heigl had carved out for herself, and the baby--which serves as an obstacle while simultaneously feeling every bit as right.

Heigl, in coming to terms with it, slowly begins to serve as the anchor and inspiration for all the other characters, as they slowly try to find the thread back to becoming better people. I think Heigl does a great job in the role--I had previously seen her as a more or less imperious beauty, an Uma Thurman type, and was surprised to see that she was so game to display some vulnerability.

It's worth noting that Apatow auditioned many women for the role, but found Heigl to be the only one who not only "got" Seth Rogan's approach to the role, but was forthright enough to not let herself be made an idiot of.

And, speaking as an actor, Heigl's role was the hardest to play. It's tough to be the Normal One. Especially when everyone else is getting handed crutches of broad characterization and comedic set pieces.

Additionally, I think this Apatow-can't-write-role-for-women criticism to be lacking merit based upon the 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN. Trish is an especially vibrant female character. How could it not be? Catherine Keener plays her! Additionally, the daughter character is drawn with affecting grace, and if you are looking for an example of Apatow letting the women play with the comedy, I submit Elizabeth Banks--who is a hilarious, sexy, kicky, spitfire of an actress, well deployed in that movie.

Blogs t r e t c h said...

yeah, ok, fine.

shimmy shimmy ya shimmy shimmy yay.

the g said...

oh, i'm not saying Apatow's guilty of this all the time. like you said, just check E. Banks.*

And actually liked Leslie Mann more than Katherine Heigl, quite honestly. But maybe I was just disappointed because like you say, she had the hardest role & it's hard to be the "normal one."

(* rumor has it she tastes like a burger.)