Thursday, June 21, 2007

Knocked Up (Movie Review)

This movie is cute. It's funny. And I recommend it to anyone who can tolerate stereotypes about relationships — particularly as they pertain to women.

The irony of Knocked Up (2007) is that it entertains even as it subtly offends, a contrast that was just powerful enough to actually make me feel ashamed to have otherwise enjoyed the newest comedy from director Judd Apatow (40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman).

Knocked Up is different from previous Apatow hits because it's significantly less slapstick than, say, Anchorman (which, just for the record, I enjoyed immensely). That is to say, it's not deadpan comedy, insofar as it has it has a more serious undercurrent.

The film is about a celebratory one-night-stand that leads to an unlikely mixture of DNA between a jobless stoner (played by Seth Rogen) and a rising star of the E! Network (played by Katherine Heigl). The two make a difficult "go" at transforming their obvious mistake into a sustainable relationship, thereby giving rise to much of the film's humor.

But what bothered me was primarily the way Apatow directed his real-time wife, Leslie Mann. Mann plays the part of the older, unhappily married sister in Knocked Up. Her laid back husband, played by the always charming Paul Rudd, is the recipient of nagging, spying and all-out irrational behavior. And even when Mann's character does have a reason to be upset, she's portrayed in such a way that serves only to increase the audience's sympathy for the husband.

And by that I mean: we're only casually made aware of how the husband has neglected his family and his wife, as he's generally made out to be otherwise ideal on both counts. The wife's nagging, by contrast, is consistently over-the-top (and so perpetuates a negative female stereotype). And even as we casually realize there might be a reason for her behavior, Apatow's direction still clearly favors the husband.

This prejudice bothered me all the more when Heigl's character — herself upset for viable reasons — betrays her own logical emotions by shouting a line that was most definitely written by a man with an ax to grind:

"You're supposed to side with me, even if everything I say is crazy!" (paraphrase)

Granted, I've seen women live up to this stereotype. But in this particular scene — and in this particular instance — the line served only to undercut the film's strongest character. She had a valid point, and that Rogen's character was disagreeing with her should've served to highlight his immaturity and not her pregnant state.

But instead, her emotions were explained away as illogical and hormonal.

And that, Mr. Apatow, really bothered me.

This grievance aside, the film does a fair job painting the differences between men and women, ultimately leading me to wonder why, on earth, we even bother with the difficult business of procreation.



Winter said...

I'm going to go see this movie tonight and then give you my review... :)

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Please do let me know what you think — this one got a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is an amazingly favorable review. I appear to be one of the few who didn't entirely appreciate the way Apatow directed his female leads.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

(That said, I did think the movie was otherwise fun to watch.)

blueblanket said...

"You're supposed to side with me, even if everything I say is crazy!"

I think I need that stitched on a pillow!

Mystic Wing said...

Surely you jest.

I've agreed with several of your reviews, but found this one utterly repugnant. There was a time when humour seemed to require wit; now it appears that if you curse in foul manner, as many times as possible, this is regarded as the finest of comedy.

I found this film utterly discouraging and not in the least bit funny. No characters with any redeeming features whatsoever.

40-year-old version, by contrast, was boorish, but with characters you could TRY to care about.