| The Red Right Hand
To open this review, allow me to sample a comment from PiercyGill, posted on IMDB
"First, I'll say I'm a woman; Second, I'll say I loved 40 Year Old Virgin; Third, I'll just get into it: Knocked Up's portrayal of women was reprehensible. Women do not speak that way. They do not whine. They do not get angry for no reason. They don't have sex with disgusting fat losers just because said loser may be funny at times. The absolutely do not yell at people for no reason." I'm not sexist, I'm a very caring, loving (and modest) boyfriend but that little quote is incredibly funny. "Women are flowers and should be treated so. Pluck them gently and they will tell you a story, or fly you a kite, they may even caress your coccyx." - before you raise your eyebrows, the coccyx is a triangle of bone at the base of your spine... I think she's just trying to be funny and smart but coming off as pretentious and naive. I could equally rant on similar grounds that men are poorly portrayed in this film as dumb and childlike but that would be a falsehood, for some men blatantly are. The key factor to the popularity and success of this film lies in the genre crossing; similar to the nature of parenthood (and even domestic equilibrium) different lifestyles get thrown together and each individual must reach a level of compromise for harmony to survive. One could analyse this film to the base unit of how couples get on and abide one another but for now, let's simply stick to the story.
The opening sequence establishes our two leads, Ben Stone [Rogen], an overweight, drug-taking, slacker with little ambition and Alison [Heigl], a beautiful, successful career-woman with a bright and promising future ahead of her. Both Ben and Alison find themselves in the same club and awkwardly hit it off. Many drinks later, they find themselves back at Alison's place, under the sheets. What follows is simple biology; thanks to a miscommunication/misinterpretation of 'just do it already' Alison discovers that she is pregnant. The main thread of the plot follows the odd-couple's decisions, clashes and grating points from conception to birth. There we go, simple premise. The controversy starts here with public opinion - don't worry, we'll get to my opinions shortly. A large portion of the United States believes that abortion is a terrible crime; despite this, cries of 'where's the realism?' are still dominant in arguments against this feature because the hot career lady didn't instantly opt for an abortion. For whatever reason, the public is willing to accept the inner beauty of a short, portly lady with glasses and an obsession with unicorns but when reversed, the notion is hideous and obtuse... but we'll get into that later; probably the 'highlighted character' section.
The sub-plots actually offer a surprisingly poignant statement about married life, raising children and the differences between men and women in relationships. Rather than offering simple filler, the sub-elements actually intertwine with the main story with great success. That may sound cheesy and tacky but when you have 'comedies' being released the likes of I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, one has to question the nature of a 'good modern comedy.' Alison, for unknown reasons, is living with her sister, Debbie [Mann], brother-in-law, Pete [Rudd] and two nieces played by the director's daughters. The relationship between Pete and Debbie is one of a couple who have spent a considerable amount of time growing to dislike the surface of their relationship; Debbie feels the need to go to clubs and feel beautiful and 'fuckable' whereas Pete desperately needs time to himself and misses male camaraderie. In addition to this we also have Ben's stoner friends, who are complete layabouts, comfortable with their idol existence - for whatever reason they come off as more likeable than those depicted in the God-awful Grandma's Boy.
Of course, it's not all sunshine and roses; there are a few down points to be addressed. The first on the list is the running time of 128 minutes. I'm not saying comedies can't roll over two hours but sometimes you really did feel it. I also had issues with stereotypes; I'm rarely one to harp on about these matters but the amount of complaints from US audiences filled me with an overwhelming urge to lash back. The nature of men and women as it is portrayed in this film is one that is realistic, end of story. It doesn't fit everybody's lifestyle pattern but it fits a demographic. You don't have to be of that demographic to enjoy this film because you can at least recognise these characters. My complaints are about public stupidity. The amount of extremist women's-lib comments about this film is ridiculous and unrealistic, asking how a beautiful woman, with a successful career would throw it away for a 'fat loser.' I'm not saying Ben is initially a good character, he's not, he's a slob but he strives to change and does whatever he can to help Alison through their situation, making him a good character. Alison has a similar arc, starting off as a snap-judgement, independent woman who lives with her sister and goes to clubs, (despite being 7 months pregnant) but learns to look past the external and see the effort put forth by Ben. It's a tale of consequences, responsibilities and acceptance; it's easy to say this film wouldn't have come about if Ben had been more responsible but that's just seeing one-side of the argument for Alison is equally irresponsible and refuses to accept blame (not a good word, I know) until the end of the film. It's all very delicate to write about but after seeing Waitress I'm still revved up on the issue of what women want to see in the cinema; especially when the nature of pregnancy is concerned. There we go, rant over.
This film is a very good couples' movie, offering cheap gags and De Niro impressions for the guys and a very honest, romantic tone for women. The screening I attended was primarily women, with a handful of guys dragged along and both sexes often roared with laughter - something a British audience has a tendency not to do. Unlike the incredibly smart and witty brilliance of Sideways, Knocked Up, is a more approachable, simplistic comedy (not an insult or put down) for adults.
24th August 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
The crowning scene was a little stupid. I understand what it is, we've all seen the biology tapes in school and I'm not of the ilk of men who claim giving birth is 'disgusting' but the whole thing looked far too neat and clean to be real. It just felt unnecessary. I know this is a minor note and probably shouldn't be mentioned here of all places but I'm going to address it. Swearing. Swearing and realism in films. More and more films are claiming realistic CGI effects, realistic relationships, characters and scenarios yet maintaining their appeal as entertainment. Yet swearing, sex, drinking and smoking are frowned upon; I am continually bewildered by this. I'm not encouraging or endorsing unnecessary inclusions of these issues but to complain that a film contains too many swear words is ridiculous. People swear, it's that simple, it's a shame and probably shouldn't be that way but the question of life-imitating-art-imitating-life is ever present with this issue. Especially with the yanks, Brit-flicks are considered atrociously foul-mouthed but for whatever reason, you all let it slide. If an American swears on-screen, it's a disgrace. Odd. As I said, this is just a small point but the sheer mass of criticism of this film that was primarily focused on swearing was baffling. I'll finish with a comment about a random scene.. er.. I very much enjoyed the back-and-forth banter between Pete and Ben as Debbie and Alison look on helplessly, unaware of their in-jokes and film references, feeling more and more annoyed and alienated. I've lived that experience a little too often... but that was my own fault; I'm irritatingly obsessed with films. Although, one must question how good is a film that simply quotes other films?
I liked Ben's character. I liked his arc and the change from hopped-up slacker to slacker with a job and a child. His mentality, inherited from his father's carefree, drug-induced lifestyle is one that people should strive for (oddly enough). For all his irresponsibility and social faux-pas, Ben is a kind, good guy who wants nothing other than to see Alison happy. I was going to go for Paul Rudd, who seems like a reliable comedy choice at the minute but Seth Rogen's sentimental side really shines through and brings a considerable level of depth to this release. Just a side note: I really hate comments like the one at the top of the review stating beautiful women "don't have sex with disgusting fat losers just because said loser may be funny at times" because I can assure you, they do. Women have and always will form relationships with whomever they please, as will men. To state that a character in a film is disgusting because he/she is not conventionally acceptable is incredibly backward - especially as the above user gave Ugly Betty a star review and went on to say of Knocked Up "I don't think that's how babies come out. I don't buy it. Babies never have hair. Babies aren't all bloody. They are clean and smell like baby powder and giggle when you show them a set of keys." The scariest part is that she believes this.
"Do you ever wonder how somebody could even like you? The biggest problem in our marriage is that she wants me around... and I can't even accept that"
In A Few Words:
"A colourful blend chick-flicks and idiot-teen-comedies; offering an entertaining and subtly poignant look at couples, marriage and children"