Considering that when Mr. Ben and I spent Memorial Day Weekend lounging in his mom's house in Chappaqua with friends we rewatched 40 Year Old Virgin, rediscovering exactly how funny that movie is, we naturally wanted to see Apatow's second major at bat, Knocked Up, ASAP. Truly and duly, we laughed very hard throughout Knocked Up, but there were times that I was also squeezing his hand; there was one time that I cried; and at least once I blessed the fact that I was still off sugar. Apatow coulda given me an anxiety attack.
Nobody told me it was a horror movie! was my first comment when the lights came on, and I was only partly kidding. Knocked Up is impressive for dealing with serious topics without melting into sentimentality. But (excuse the cliche) partly because it was so good, I wanted it to be better.
As some critics have noted, Apatow can't really do women. The main character Alison's sister, played by Apatow's real life wife, is a frightening, controlling, hysterical mess who does almost nothing right from start to finish. She and her husband, played by Paul Rudd, communicate so badly they barely bother to try. As even Alison, who for some reason loves her sister, points out, they're miserable and utterly wrong for each other.
In real life, they would divorce. In this movie, that's not an option. Following that same strange moral code, the idea that Alison would consider an abortion when she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant is only discussed briefly by other, minor characters who suggest darkly that Alison should "take care of it." Did Doc Brown abduct these characters and transport them to 1903? On Gray's Anatomy -- a network TV show! -- they dealt with the subject more straightforwardly; and this movie is rated R.
I would have no problem with Alison choosing to have a baby, but you never see her make the choice -- you know, consider her options, make a list, decide what she really wants. You don't even get her looking longingly at kids or something to indicate she has a deep current of maternal instinct. It's Life With Baby Forever or Nothing for this chick, and I just didn't buy it. Why would a twenty-something well-off professional single woman in LA unquestioningly change her life around to have the baby of a shlubby guy with whom she'd had a drunk one-night stand? Even though Ben (the fella in question) is funny and sweet and relatively charming.
That's problem #1 I had with the movie. Problem #2, which I alluded to earlier, is that the main model of marriage is the natural disaster of a couple of Alison's sister and her husband. I've never seen a better ad for homosexuality than this movie. It seems to be saying that men & women are incurably different and can only be "trained" to live together in pseudo peace, because men are wild children at heart and women are appearance-obsessed mysteries who don't know how to have fun.
To be fair, Katherine Heigl has some moments where she shows she's more honest and more human than her sister. She's not judgmental about Ben's drug use or his layabout lifestyle (something he accuses her of, later). At one point she breaks it to him gently that he's fine the way he is; just, the guy he is isn't the guy for her. Great! Plus, she's right -- they would be better friends. Part of me wished the movie would leave it there, giving them full points for trying. But, yeah, part of me enjoyed the rom-com ending.
But there are also plenty of parts where she's CRAZY, too crazy for hormones to function solely as an excuse. Why, female characters? Why must you be so off your rockers, so bats-in-the-bellfry, bricks short of a load? Could you not have pulled Apatow aside and explained in your nicest indoor voices that there's an alternative? Catherine Keener in 40 Y.O.V. must have done that, cuz she did not fare nearly so badly.
All of the fringe characters, by the way, are hilarious. My favorite are the Good Cop/Bad Cop E! TV executives for whom Alison works, but everyone's pitch perfect, ad libbing their hearts out and clearly having a great time. I'd give the movie an 8 for the Vegas sequence alone. Maybe it's because I'm getting married so all of this cuts close to home. But I really wish it had been just a little bit better.
Interesting factoid: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Lindsey Lohan, and Anne Hathaway were all considered for the part of Alison. Throw Selma Hayek and Jessica Simpson into the mix and you have a regular Rockette line of the bustiest thin ladies of Hollywood. Clearly the character needed to be pneumatic, but why? Did the first draft featured a huge flood that Alison needed to survive? Not that I'm complaining; it makes me feel less alone to see the stacked ladies. Although for all the gratutious tit shots, it's worth noting that Heigl keeps her bra on throughout. You see three shots of the baby crowning but not so much as a nipple. Oh, Hollywood.