Friday, June 1, 2007

Reviews of the Film, "Knocked Up"

On a quick search, I could not find a woman's review of this movie, but the male reviewers sure loved it.  (A.O. Scott actually says it made him "laugh and almost cry.")  Most reviewers give pretty much the same take on the film (and can't seem to avoid intending the pun "pregnant" in describing what the movie is full of).  Scott's review addresses the movie's handling of abortion:

When one of Ben’s sperm, showing more initiative than the man who produced it (and taking advantage of an all-too-believable moment of condom carelessness) hits the reproductive jackpot, the stage seems to be set for a comedy of male panic. But that’s not quite how “Knocked Up” plays. Rather than being afraid of commitment, Ben appears fascinated by the idea, as if it were a distant land chronicled in legend and song. When he learns that Alison has decided to keep the baby — there is a funny, knowing riff on the reluctance of movies and television shows even to use the word “abortion” — he seems genuinely delighted.

Read Bye-Bye, Bong. Hello, Baby.  As to the film's "beauty and the beast" theme (or should we say the frog and the princess, or Woody Allen and ...), Scott concedes:

There is ... a certain familiarity to much of this: ... the competent, attractive young woman yoked to a slovenly and unambitious young man.

Peter Travers concurs:

I'll admit there's something sitcom-trite about the setup. Idiot-boy Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) knocks up gorgeous Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) on a drunken first date and forges a truce with his lifelong enemy: maturity.

A certain familiarity?  Something trite?  Gee, go out on a limb, boys.  And Ben's not just slovenly.  Writes Travers, "Ben is Peter Pan to these lost boys who pingpong pop-culture references between half-assed attempts to build a tits-obsessed Web site called Flesh of the Stars."  Nevertheless, Travers is quick (it's the opening line of his review) to dismiss as a wet blanket anyone who might roll her eyes at these tired, sexist themes.

The only review I saw that gave any clue as to how this movie might appeal to a woman appeared in the Canadian magazine, McLean's, where Brian Johnson writes:

Apatow's dialogue is dense with laugh-out-loud gags, but it's grounded in a sharp observational wit. It also hooks the pregnancy theme to a running satire of Hollywood's fear of fat. (Before she gets pregnant, Alison's TV bosses tell her "we can't legally ask you" to lose weight. "We just want you to eat less.")

Which brings me back to Woody Allen (also invoked in Johnson's review), at whose movies I have certainly laughed tears, despite the ever-present beauty and the beast theme.  Any female readers out there who have seen "Knocked Up" and care to comment?

UPDATE:  Thanks to MJS for finding a review in the L.A. Times, written by a female reviewer.  The review, 'Knocked Up' is funny, but it's lacking at the core, is by Charina Chocano and, yes, she does see the movie a little differently.  See the comments to this post for an excerpt of Chocano's review.

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Excerpt from a review from LA Times by female reviewer:

It's a promising premise, and Apatow takes it unexpected directions. But "Knocked Up" is so enamored of Ben and his insouciant charm that it fails to wonder what it must feel like for the girl. It's one thing to go with the idea that Ben and Alison dwell in different leagues, which after all is the point of the movie. It's another thing altogether for the heroine, who in true girl-on-pedestal form is beautiful, smart, successful, nice and pretty much cool with everything, never to get even the tiniest chance to wonder if maybe she might have done a little better. Alison's view of her future with Ben fluctuates according to what he does or doesn't do in a given situation, or how well or badly her sister and brother-in-law Pete (Paul Rudd) are getting along. But it's never measured up to her own hopes or dreams for a relationship. What her type is, we'll never know.

It should come as no surprise that a movie like this will be firmly entrenched in the boys'-eye-view. But if Alison weren't so pregnant, you'd swear she was stuck in the role of the sacrificial virgin. Ben lives in a post-college frat-house with his buddies Jay (Jay Baruchel), Jason (Jason Segel), Jonah (Jonah Hill), Martin (Martin Starr) and Jodi (Charlyne Yi), where they spend their days combing movies for nude scenes to catalog on their website and thinking up creative ways to smoke pot (fish bowl on the head, snorkeling mask, etc.).

Alison, meanwhile, dwells in splendor and isolation in Debbie and Pete's backyard guesthouse, Alison exists on the margins of her big sister's life. She's never made to suffer the indignity of explaining her situation to her actual friends because she doesn't appear to have any. Until Ben comes along, there are no men in her life, and her only friends, glimpsed for a second, appear to be a trio of catty frenemies she hasn't seen in months. Her first visit to a gynecologist comes only after her first missed period, and she finds the experience as alien as Ben does.

Watching her slowly come around to the idea of mating with this guy for life, it's hard not to feel kind of sorry for her. Ben may have no job, no muscle tone and no clue what he's doing, but he may be the best thing that ever happened to Alison by virtue of the fact that he's pretty much the only thing that's ever happened to her outside of work.

Posted by: MJS | Jun 1, 2007 10:33:57 AM

When did it become the fantasy of young women to become Marge Simpson or the wife on the Family guy? I know that guys love these shows, but really, if a gal likes those shows, they are not identifying with the wife as an ideal.

The gal in Knocked Up, after the afterglow of birth fades, faces a future of grumbling, teeth-grinding wife/boy-child shlubby husband. Gee, what a future! Shitty diapers and Mr. Skidmark!

You know why you don't see a comedy with chubby girl and Orlando Bloom? Because guys have enough self-esteem to not give up the dream of marrying someone they'd love. Apparently, when a man writes a screenplay, it's okay for a woman to give up all sexual desires and give up what she wants for the the chubby guy who she has no compatibility with. Afterall, women don't need a sex drive in marriage or ambition. or a self. But they do need to be the mommy. Oh, my, god. cannot select an abortion. Has to be the Marge Simpson Mommy-responsible-one in a relationship or all of nature will collapse!

The gal in the movie has no single childless friends to confuse her choice. Or friends that say "wait for the guy you love." Just a white suburban glow of a sister. It's sort of a loaded deck here. Every sperm is sacred, especially when it's a chubby loser. (By the way, the chubby don't have to be the loser, he can have skills in something, this guy's a pothead who says f-you when she tells him she's pregnant, hillarious, huh? Well it is if you are a guy.)

What about the happy ending for woman?

And what is this about hating mother in laws? It was like the only woman to suggest an abortion is the gal's mother, and after she takes the hated role of suggesting it, the gal is hellbent to have it. Why is it in the soap operas that the older mother is the counterpoint in touching on abortion, which makes the daughter rebell? It has the double bonus to the guy screenwriter of hating older women, and hating mother in laws. The daughter rebells as a plot point.

Even the writer/director admitted in an interview that this coupling would probably last two years post birth at most before a splitup.

Posted by: Need better movies for young women | Jun 3, 2007 10:14:44 AM

This is a refreshing post about a movie everyone seems to be unthinkingly embracing.

Posted by: Fellow-ette | Jun 5, 2007 8:06:18 AM

Thanks! That's how I was feeling as I read the initial reviews. It's a sad commentary on the media, obviously, that so many of the mainstream reviewers either can't seem to see what seems so obvious to many women, or are outright hostile to women's perspectives (a la Travers).

Posted by: Caitlin Borgmann | Jun 5, 2007 10:12:41 AM

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