What luck! It's not every day that a previously undiscovered Hitchcock film surfaces. The 40-Year-Old Virgin finds the Master of Suspense in familiar nail-biting territory when a mysterious stranger rolls into a quiet town and... I'm just kidding. Actually, the directorial debut of Judd Apatow (creator of TV's sorely missed Undeclared) is a bit of dirty-sweet hilarity about a guy embarking on his fifth decade of intercourse-free living. Hope I didn't ruin the surprise.
Andy (Steve Carell, Anchorman) doesn't seem to mind his unsullied status, apparently content to fill his free time with collecting action figures ("Is that the Six Million Dollar Man's boss?"), watching Survivor with his neighbors, and perfecting the egg salad sandwich. But he's not exactly advertising his chastity, either, and once his coworkers --- ladies' man Jay (Romany Malco), stoner Cal (Seth Rogen), and wounded Dave (I love Paul Rudd) --- drag the truth out of him, it becomes their mission to acquaint Andy with the fairer sex. And there is nothing funnier than men trying to explain women to other men, on film or in person.
So with the aid of his hapless friends, Andy tries his hand at hooking up. His frightening interlude with the alcohol-soaked Nicky (Leslie Mann) gets the ball rolling, and then his accidental seduction of bookstore employee Beth (Elizabeth Banks, from Seabiscuit) ups his confidence. But getting to know a person more than just biblically becomes Andy's goal once he meets Trish (Catherine Keener), a divorcee who isn't completely forthcoming about her situation either.
Hopefully the inevitable and deserved success of the ruthlessly raunchy Virgin (cowritten by Apatow and Carell) and the ongoing popularity of The Wedding Crashers will mean it's acceptable to laugh again in public at stuff that's not at all politically correct. I'm thinking in particular of the affectionate "Know how I know you're gay?" smackdown between Dave and Cal during their videogame battle. It certainly isn't a terribly enlightened exchange, but it's not mean-spirited and it is refreshingly real. (For the record, liking Coldplay is not an accurate barometer of a person's sexuality, just a sure sign that they won't have any CDs you'll want to borrow.)
Carell, with his big gray eyes and trustworthy eyebrows, underplays a character for the first time, and he makes it completely believable that Andy, having not had the greatest luck, decided to take himself out of the game and needed just a little push to resume play. Watching the interaction between him, Rudd, Malco, and Rogen is like being a fly on the wall at a really goofy bachelor party. And Keener finally finds a studio film worthy of her talents with a role that could have easily been a merely symbolic one in this celluloid He-Man Woman Haters Club.
There is a tiny problem, though. At the screening I attended, the film seemed to break right at the end. I probably didn't miss much --- most likely some outtakes over the credits --- and I doubt anything would have happened that would cause me to do a 180 on my high opinion of Virgin. I did, however, witness a gentleman who was very upset about missing the tail end of a free movie. This message is for him:
Dear Clueless Jerk:
Movie theaters and projection booths are designed to be relatively soundproof, which makes yelling at the projectionist from your seat rather futile. I don't mind the idea of you wasting your breath, though, so have at it.
Shot entirely in the Budapest subway system, Kontroll is a darkly comedic thriller focusing on a group of ticket control officers who are trying to maintain order underground. Clever Bulcsú (SándorCsányi) is the leader of this bedraggled bunch, which consists of weary veteran, green rookie, narcoleptic slob, and the one who looks like Begbie from Trainspotting (a film to which Kontroll owes a great deal, incidentally). They must contend with inept superiors, rival co-workers, an uncooperative public, and what looks to be a rash of suicides but isn't because murder advances a plot better than despair does.
Kontroll is undeniably entertaining but it made me feel kind of cheap as filmmaker NimródAntal succumbed to the usual clichés of this genre, i.e., foot chases set to thumping music, a formulaic setup, and a beautiful yet quirky love interest. The execution is extremely accomplished, however, as Antal makes the subway the star of the film.
But there are number of questions left unanswered about Bulcsú's past life, the killer's motives, and the possible familial connection between Bulcsú and the girl in the teddy bear suit. Then again, maybe I'm not supposed to ask.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (R), directed by Judd Apatow, is playing at Brockport Strand, Canandaigua Theatres, Geneseo Theatres, Eastview Mall 13, Henrietta 18, Pittsford Cinema, Tinseltown USA | Kontroll(R), directed by Nimrod Antal, opens at the Little Theatre on Friday, August 19.