Knocked Up

>> Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"What if this guy got you pregnant?"

I'd get something ending in t-i-o-n.

I should have caught this in the theater because then I wouldn't have had to watch the extra 10 minutes or so that was put into the "unrated and unprotected" version I got from Netflix. This movie is so overrated. And so LONG. I thought it would never end. The first time I looked at the time it was only 40 minutes into the movie. Great, an hour and a half left to go. And it kept going. And going.

There were some funny parts like the parts at E! with Alan Tudyk and Kristen Wiig, but they were totally dragged out by other parts in the movie. Like Vegas. Did we really need to go there? Ugh. So cliché. And boring. The few E! segments seemed to be the only parts where Apatow & company had something new to say by highlighting Hollywood's exploitation of kids for $$$ and the emphasis that women should always be skinny ("Tighten!").

I never thought it possible but after seeing this, I actually agree with Katherine Heigl. (Shit, hell must be freezing over as I type, but that shouldn't be surprising because the Puget Sound area is melting from all the heat.) But as Heigl said to Vanity Fair, ""a little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys." It's totally true! Leslie Mann's character is always nagging/sniping at her husband. She even suspects him of cheating and has spying software installed on his computer so that she can monitor him. And what's the point of the short, road trip to Vegas supposed to prove? Characteristics of two characters that have already been well established?

Judd Apatow responded to the "sexism" criticism by saying,

"I think the characters are sexist at times," he told us, "but it's really about immature people who are afraid of women and relationships and learn to grow up. If people say that the characters are sexist, I say, yeah, that's what I was going for in the first part of the movie, and then they change." But of course that wasn't the question, Judd Apatow. Actually, the characters aren't all that sexist, but the movie kind of is. The problems with Knocked Up have been pointed out by many writers, most ably (if also with the least timeliness) by Slate's Meghan O'Rourke.
O'Rourke:
It also captures something sad about a marriage gone wrong: One person feels she offered a really good deal that the other shrugged off, choosing his needs over her help. But the scene has none of the zany ingenuity of Pete and Ben's scene and lacks the verbal dexterity that peppers women's dialogue in screwball comedies. The result is dissonance. If Apatow tries, in Knocked Up, to suggest that guys need to grow up a bit to meet women's high expectations, he, like his own characters, doesn't seem to get that maybe there's a lot more to women than these expectations. You might say his critique is muddied by its own joyful enactment of male high jinks, and the corresponding absence of anything similar on the part of the women. So when Debbie tells Pete that she, too, might want time to watch movies by herself, it seems utterly unconvincing: She seems too focused on the mechanics of family life to do anything that … pointless and solitary.

This disparity is on display in a whole series of recent comedies, from School of Rock to High Fidelity. It's also powerfully familiar to anyone who follows the so-called Mommy Wars. In that proliferating literature of family friction, women's lives seem to shrink to a series of pragmatic decisions about achieving balance, while men are concerned with domestic stuff only to the degree that they choose to be. In this regard, Knocked Up is in keeping with the zeitgeist: If, as Heigl delicately put it, the movie is a "little sexist," that is because it is the natural product of a culture evidently sold on the notion that women are so focused on domestic mechanics that they simply don't know how to allow themselves the playful inner lives men do, whether they're free-associating brilliantly with their friends, or lazily absorbed in video games.
But one thing that surprises me is seeing how young Heigl looks in this movie. It's only two years old, but Heigl looks five years younger. How many ciggies does she smoke a day? Or should I ask how many packs per day?

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