Tuesday, September 25, 2007

No. 24: The 40 Year Old Virgin

My All Time Favorite Movies: Number 24

The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

Starring: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen

Not exactly the most hard to find, subtle movie on my list, The 40 Year Old Virgin may be the most sophomoric, yet consistently funny and charming romantic comedy in movie history. What starts as a simple "guy must get laid" premise, turns into a love story with a real relationship at its heart. The progression of the courtship between Steve Carell's titular geek Andy, and the always appealing Catherine Keener's Trish comes to satisfying fruition at the films (pun intended) climax.

The film is fillled with zany set pieces including a tryst with a margarita spewing barmaid, the speed dating round from hell, and the most devilishly painful 3 minutes on film, Andy's chest waxing appointment. Andy gets terrible advice from his co-workers, one a pothead, one a player, and one a man scorned, and yet Andy is the one who respects women and treats them with kindness. If foul language, graphic sex talk, and bodily fluid jokes offend, this is not the film for you. But at it's core is a heart as big as Andy's action figure collection.

Is it wrong to love this movie? It's a pure love like Andy's. More of a respect really. Steve Carell is the rare comedian who we both laugh with because of how smart he is, and yet laugh at without feeling guilty for it. An everyman who can be the charming lead romantic figure and also the Xbox playing, Asia humming, bike riding uber geek, Carell shines. From his deliciously awkward role as the world's worst boss Michael Scott on TV's The Office to roles in films such as this or the Academy award winning Little Miss Sunshine, he's on the short list of the funniest men in show business. Now he's on my list.

Monday, September 24, 2007

No 25: American Splendor

My All Time Favorite Movies: Number 25

American Splendor (2003)

Starring: Paul Giamitti and Hope Davis

A movie about living and loving life, from the point of view of one of the most misanthropic people on the planet. Real life underground comic book artist Harvey Pekar plays himself in transitional material throughout the film, while Paul Giamatti brings his hangdog-ish lovable loser persona to the fictionalized version of him. As a struggling file clerk in Cleveland who's wife leaves him after a bout with chronic sore throat rendering him speechless for months at a time, Pekar plods through life observing the ordinary, which to him, is pretty complex. Whether it's choosing a line at the grocery store, or deciding whether or not to shave, every decision Harvey makes is a difficult one. With the help of his "celebrity" friend Bob Crumb, Harvey makes himself into a comic book hero, and creates a cult comic 'American Splendor'.

When a kooky yet chronically depressed Delaware lady (Hope Davis) meets Pekar, for a makeshift date-weekend, they decide that they're perfect for each other and get married right away, though Harvey warns her, "I want to tell you right off the bat, I've had a vasectomy." The interplay between Davis and Giamatti is so real yet so funny, you'd swear they were the real Harvey and Joyce. And they probably got to study the couple pretty well, since they're in the movie too. It's a non-gimmicky thread that links all the events in Harvey's life with the real life character's that inhibit his world, and the film plays all the notes correctly, while never being to cutesy about its unique process.

That a man like, the unkempt, cranky, hostile Pekar can find love, find family, and find success sends a message to all of us. We can all be the heroes in our own lives. Thisis really the performance that catapulted Giamatti to stardom, not the more commercially successful and equally hilarious Sideways. As Harvey says, Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff. Yet wi th Giamatti, he's so natural, so real, so sympathetic in a non-sympathetic role, you forget which Harvey is the real one and which one is the actor.

American Splendor is simply one of the truest, funniest, saddest, most unique films I've ever seen and beg each and every one of you out there to rent this movie, and then share it with your friend and family. You'll be glad you did.