Friday, June 01, 2007

Quotes of the Week -- "Knocked Up" and Mars/Venus


Can it be that there is a gender difference among the critics who reviewed "Knocked Up?" Not a split exactly, but a slant. Male critics were more likely to be unabashedly positive about the film, finding it not just funny but smart, even profound.

At the New York Post, Kyle Smith gave the film a "Standing Ovulation" (that was the headline), calling it

an era-defining comedy classic to rank with "Little Miss Sunshine." It's this generation's "When Harry Met Sally," and it's even better than "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," because the freakish situation it uses as a setup is life....
Like Rogen's character, "Knocked Up" is a lot more mature than it looks. It's a brilliant comedy disguised as a dumb one.

Adam Graham of the Detroit News says it
is full of huge laughs and witty pop culture banter but also offers insightful and honest explorations of marriage, relationships, friendship and parenthood.

Bob Longino of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls it
more than just laugh-out-loud funny. It's the relationship comedy of the summer and likely the best boy-meets-girl movie of the year.

At the New York Times, A.O. Scott says it is
an instant classic, a comedy that captures the sexual confusion and moral ambivalence of our moment without straining, pandering or preaching.

We're talking about a movie that draws much of its humor from arrested development, pot jokes, very crude and raunchy references, and a childbirth scene that gives new meaning to the term "up close and personal."

Female critics seemed more ambivalent. Slate's Dana Stevens calls it a "raunchy, guy-centric summer comedy...[that] is a crossover movie both in gender and in age." But she says that as she thought about the film, she realized
[Writer-director Judd] Apatow writes men with far more insight and acuity than he writes women. As a result, his portrait of contemporary gender relations is unbalanced: Crude and hilarious in Guyville, he seizes up when he gets to Ladyland and allows himself to take refuge in comfortable clich├ęs. It's not that Knocked Up is misogynistic—if anything, Apatow is uxorious to a fault, scrupulously respectful of chicks and the chick stuff they do. He just doesn't seem to get exactly what that stuff is....

Paradoxically, the tenderest, most emotionally intimate scenes in "Knocked Up" aren't the romantic ones between Alison and Ben, but those involving Ben and his profane posse and his growing relationship with the developmentally stunted Pete....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.

In The Reeler, Michele Orange says the movie makes her want to be a dude. In Apatow's world, the dudes get to live in slacker heaven -- they get to be funny. But it is the treatment of
the sympathetic, if undeveloped Alison (what does Ben, who lives for one-liners, see in his bland goddess?) that confirms the essential zoological status of the female of the species in Apatow-land. They can’t make you laugh but they can certainly make you cringe.

6 comments:

Reel Fanatic said...

Hola Nell .. I'm sure you won't be surprised that I fell solidly in the Mars camp with this one ... I'm not sure I could call it terribly profound, but I laughed a heck of a lot, and that was good enough for me ... I do have to agree that Apatow writes men better than women, but I thought Alison was a fairly well-rounded character

Nell Minow said...

Great to hear from you -- I have been looking forward to your take on the movie! I found the characters in "40 Year Old Virgin" more likeable, and it was hard for me to root for either of the couples in this one. As I told you, I thought Paul Rudd stole the movie, and its most touching moment was when he admitted that the scary thing was not giving love but accepting it.

And yes, it was very funny!

Anonymous said...

this is very interesting. I never thought about it before, but you can gain a lot of insight by treating movies as a rorschach test for different factions of society (or in this case, different factions of film critics). Perhaps more insight than you can gain from focusing on the movie itself.

DA

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, they don't like it or are ambivalent towards it because they don't like the way they are portrayed in it. Period (no pun intended)

Nell Minow said...

Good point, anonymous. As you can imagine, one's perspective on a "funny" childbirth scene could be affected on whether you've been through one yourself. And one's perspective on a comedy will depend in part on the ability to connect to the characters you are most likely to identify with. It was interesting to me that the one attempt to make a very raunchy comedy from a female perspective, "The Sweetest Thing" was such a huge flop. Yes, it wasn't a very good movie, but it provoked more hostility than many movies of similar quality with male protagonists.

Marguerite said...

I'm a chick--hell, I'm an *old* chick (who's been through childbirth), and I laughed until the tears came to my eyes.