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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

Knocked Up (review)

Real Reality

Americans are children.

This is the only possible conclusion to be drawn from the rave reviews being showered upon Knocked Up. It is “mature,” “honest,” “romantic,” “warm and fuzzy,” “straight from the heart,” “humane,” even — Jesus H. Christ on the pill — “family-friendly.”

I want to scream.

I need a drink.
Look: I’m not saying that writer/director Judd Apatow (The 40 Year-Old Virgin) has not given us an accurate representation of the state of modern relationships as many, perhaps most Americans experience it. It’s that he’s celebrating as charming and inevitable and amusing and sweet what anyone who is that apparently rare specimen — an actual, genuine grownup — should be decrying as deplorable.

Men are not necessarily juvenile morons even if they like to play video games. (Some women like video games too.) Women are not necessarily hormonally driven control freaks even if we burst into tears for no reason one or two days a month. (Some men are expressively emotional too.) That this even needs to be said is indicative of the horrifically low self-esteem with which just about everyone holds themselves (or so we’re supposed to believe), and the contempt with which just about everyone holds the opposite sex (or so we’re supposed to believe).

Oh, but it’s so charming, so real.

I want to puke.

Is this really how American see marriage? There’s no romance before it, obviously, if it’s “honest” and “real” how TV reporter Alison (Katherine Heigl) and full-time slacker Ben (Seth Rogen: You, Me and Dupree, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) end up in the sack fumbling drunkenly at each other, if he’s stupid enough to think she doesn’t want him to use a condom and she’s stupid enough not to realize he isn’t wearing one. (Hello? Latex!) There’s no romance after the wedding, if it’s “honest” and “real” how Alison’s sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann), and her husband, Pete (Paul Rudd: Night at the Museum, p.s.), can barely restrain from strangling each other on a daily basis. There is no genuine romance to be found at all if men are nothing but large children who are constitutionally incapable of growing up until some woman forces them to, perhaps by announcing she’s pregnant (and why are those women sleeping with those overgrown children in the first place?). There is no genuine romance at all if women are nags who then prevent those men from being themselves. There is no geniune romance if men are merely victims of Stockholm syndrome who come to adore the captors who treat them like shit.

“I wanna rip your fucking head off because you’re so fucking stupid,” Debbie tells Pete at one point. And it’s charming, it’s real.

Why does anyone tolerate this? Why would anyone want to stay married to someone she seriously believes is fucking stupid? Why would anyone stay married to someone who speaks to him that way?

And I suppose I’m the one who’s being unrealistic about marriage.

I need to get off this planet.

Look: Alison doesn’t even want to touch Ben when she finds him in her bed the morning after their alcohol-fueled romp. If he’s really that disgusting, that much of a loser — and I’m not saying he is, except that the film casts him that way — why would she even consider having his child? A smart gal calls the clinic, gets an abortion, feels bad about it or doesn’t, and learns a lesson about not taking drunken losers home, or not having sex with anyone two hours after you meet him without a condom, a diaphragm, and the pill. If she wasn’t already smart enough to know these things before, and how the fuck could she not have been?

Of course, the word “abortion” is not uttered once here, though a couple of “bad” characters suggest “taking care of it.” A suggestion that is instantly dismissed, though it’s never really clear why. How much more icky could it be than being unable to touch the person who knocked you up in the first place?

Oh ho, but girls are silly, until they get their pregnant hooks in a guy, at which point they turn into shrieking harpies. And guys are horny dorks who are so sexually desperate they’ll debase themselves — and allow themselves to be debased by women — in exchange for regular sex. Which they won’t get anyway, the suckers, because their wives will perpetually deem them unworthy. “I buy these nice towels and he wanks into them,” Debbie says about Pete, the implication being, of course, not that masturbation is a totally appropriate bit of fun even if you’re getting plenty of action with your partner, but that he’s not getting any with his partner and what a loser he is for being frustrated by not having sex with his wife.


Paul Rudd: adorable

The twisted, demented reasoning at work in that one moment of Knocked Up makes me want to scream some more, and lunge at another drink. Who wouldn’t want to have sex with Paul Rudd? He’s adorable. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with his Pete. Debbie is simply a horror. And yet she’s supposedly representative of American women.

I’d like to let citizens of other nations know that there are at least a few American women who aren’t like that.

The problem is not that Knocked Up is “liberal” because it’s about casual sex and having a baby out of wedlock. The problem is that it is horribly conservative about embracing and enjoying an adult version of sexuality that has moved beyond dorm-room-esque groping. One night with some guy you don’t even know does not mean you must tie yourself to him for the rest of your life… unless you think that women must be punished for sex. Oh, but it’s not punishment: you get an adorable baby out of the deal! And you get to “train” a man! When Ben says something crude during their “second date,” after Alison’s decided against all reason and logic that she’s going to have the baby, she grimaces and says, “For the sake of getting to know one another, can you not talk like that?” But that’s who he is. Hearing him say this crude and juvenile thing is getting to know him. But Alison doesn’t really mean what she says. What she means is, Would he please pretend to be something he isn’t? Would he please conform to her unrealistic expectations about what he is supposed to be, instead of what he really is? (I hate this: Knocked Up is so fucked up that it’s got me defending an overgrown frat boy who should have grown the hell up years earlier.) And he will conform, because however obnoxious and insulting he can be at dinner, she’ll still be in bed with him later that evening, because she’s trying to force romance into a situation in which it doesn’t exist.

What. The. Fuck. This may be “honest” and “real,” but so is cancer and the IRS and the moldy stuff that grows in the vegetable bin of the fridge when you don’t clean it for two years. That doesn’t make it “charming” or “sweet.”

I hate that everyone is going to love this depressing stamp of approval on an absurd, juvenile status quo. I hope Alison and Ben and Debbie and Pete — and everyone who sees themselves in this movie — are all saving for their kids’ therapy, cuz they’re gonna be so seriously fucked up they’ll marry the first loser who comes along and has drunken sex with them.


MPAA: rated R for sexual content, drug use and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb

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