Friday, June 01, 2007

We saw a preview of Knocked Up last night. This is sure to be a classic.

On Salon, Stephanie Zacharek is explicitly comparing Knocked Up to Preston Sturges comedies.

That uncertainty is what links it to the great American romantic comedies: It's not as elegant as, say, "Holiday" or "The Lady Eve" or "The Palm Beach Story," but it's wise enough to know that the false promise of happily ever after is more depressing than it is uplifting. Better to acknowledge the bumpiness of the road ahead than to fool yourself into believing you can iron out its kinks.
I think she's dead-on here. Knocked Up is too raunchy to work like The Lady Eve or The Palm Beach Story, both of which were sex comedies of a different sort, but it shares the sex-with-consequences sensibility of The Miracle of Morgan's Creek with the broad pleasures of 80s sex comedies (I'm thinking Porky's), but also with a grown-up take on parenthood that I can't recall seeing in any movie before. There's a very warm embrace of humanity in the movie that reminds me of the greatest humanist director, Renoir, specifically the hijinks of Boudu Saved From Drowning. I think that's where I am: half Preston Sturges, one quarter Porky's, and one quarter Renoir.

I don't want to ruin anything for anyone, but since it's a comedy about pregnancy, I'm going to assume that y'all know it winds up in a delivery room. That scene was just incredible, somehow combining slapstick with the very real confusion and beautiful grossness (by which I mean everyone is born in blood and struggle) of natural childbirth. It has an unwavering belief in the realness and decency of even the most minor of supporting cast, and the overall effect is profound. I'm a sap these days, I know, because when my family is expecting a baby, any images of childbirth cut straight to my weepy emotional place, and that's exactly what this incredible scene does.

There's several other points where the character's reality are realized in a way that few comedies could handle. My favorite is a moment where Paul Rudd's character, holding a ridiculous fairy-tale castle-shaped ice-cream cake for his daughter's birthday, learns what his wife and sister-in-law really think of him, and in, like, three seconds, he registers the incredible hurt of this and moves on. If the movie weren't so insanely funny and light on its toes, it could easily play like an agonizingly detailed examination of marriage and relationships. That's a rare and awesome thing.

In Slate, Dana Stevens thinks that Judd Apatow doesn't write convincing women.

I can only read this moment as Judd Apatow's tribute to the awe of childbirth and the cult of the eternal feminine. It's a lovely impulse, but in his next film, maybe he could honor women by striving to create female characters with the depth of humor and humanity he gives to men.
She might have a point, although I don't think it's enough of one to justify her spending a good third of her review on this. Almost all of the guys in the movie are slacker wise-asses. At least one minor female character also is a slacker wise-ass. The major female characters rarely are deliberately funny, but it happens a couple of times. But it's wrong to say they aren't human. I thought the two female leads were both well-written and well-acted as a little high-strung (or a lot high-strung, but they're supposed to be sisters, and the one scene with their mother demonstrates exactly why they were so high-strung) with a similar bewilderment about men. Is it inhuman that they weren't as zingy as the men in the movie?

Stevens' other major point was:
It's just not believable that, in Alison and Ben's upper-middle-class, secular L.A. milieu, abortion would not be matter-of-factly discussed as a possibility in the case of a pregnancy this accidental.
I think this is complete bullshit. Alison talks about abortion with her sister and her mother. Ben explicitly doesn't want to tell her what to do because it is her choice. And when she makes the choice, she doesn't spell it out for anyone, which seemed good writing rather than bad: why would a woman ennumerate her reasons out loud to have a child rather than terminate a pregnancy? If she had done so, THAT would have sounded fake.

Finally, for your amusement, here's Michael Cera and Judd Apatow riffing on the famous Lily Tomlin/David O. Russell blowout.


Greg 3:22 AM, June 03, 2007  

Stephanie doesn't write convincing arguements.

The movie looks brilliant, but I'm sick, so I'll be enjoying this next weekend, thank you.

Greg 3:22 AM, June 03, 2007  

And I can't spell "arguments." See, we all have our faults.

Hayden Childs 1:27 PM, June 04, 2007  

I hope you dig it, Greg! And hey, the High Hat is about to send out a new request for pitches. Do you want to send us something? highhatsubmissions at gmail dot com.

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