Monday, June 11, 2007

"Knocked Up"

I feel the need to switch gears a bit, and so I thought I'd ruminate on Knocked Up, the film Trillian and I went to see just over a week ago. Before saying too much, however, I find it necessary to point out that Trillian and I both, in the depths of our hearts, are probably 14-year-old boys. And while we do not rush out to the theaters to see, for instance, every new Will Ferrell movie, you can bet they make it into our house eventually.

I should also add the disclaimer that we are Apatow fans, by means of Freaks and Geeks. Still pissed that they canceled the show! I think that he is particularly skilled at capturing life in all of its painful glory. And even when the premise might seem impossible, he doesn't have to push reality too much to make it work (e.g., 40-Year-Old Virgin and what kind of loser would still be a virgin at 40? And yet... I bought the explanation).

You have almost certainly heard the set up at this point: Alison, who has just been promoted to an on-air spot in the entertainment industry, goes out to celebrate and ends up having a one-night stand with Ben. Due to a misunderstanding, birth control falls by the way and 8 weeks later...

I was cracking up from the very beginning. First shot: the driveway of Ben's house with a couch, ping-pong table, and lifeguard's chair (which serves as the judge's seat for ping-pong matches). I had to keep myself from falling out of my chair. I know these people. OK, that was a little different, two couches on the porch (which eventually collapsed), less pot, more beer. But from just those few broad strokes, I understood Ben's world. Legally adults, he and his friends spend most of their time avoiding the title.

This world is juxtaposed with Alison's. But one thing I think many critics are missing is that she occupies a similar position in her world. She has a job, does it well, and has a promotion to show for it. But she lives in her sister's guest-house and is obviously not ready to sever that tie. Sure she can be the helpful aunt and take the kids to school, but that only makes it clear just how unprepared she is to be a parent.

One of the main criticisms I have seen of the movie is that it is highly unlikely that such a beautiful woman would end up with such a "schlub." I will definitely grant that Katherine Heigl is very good-looking. But in the movie, it's something required of her job and she's frequently done up by hair and makeup people. And it's not like Seth Rogen is ugly, as the criticism tends to imply. He is cute and a bit unkempt, but the kind of guy who would clean up nice. There's one promotional pic going around that I think captures the fact that there isn't the huge gulf often suggested. They are sitting in the waiting room, side-by-side, not looking at each other. Her hair is pulled back and she's wearing a basic polo shirt. Still good looking, but not quite so far out of Ben's league in my view.

Another thing that comes up time and again is the "glossing over" of abortion. I don't want to get into a huge thing here, but my counterpoints boil down to:
  1. If Alison had gotten an abortion, it would have been a very short movie.
  2. And let's face it, pregnancy hormones and delivery have greater comedy potential.
  3. Some people have locked onto the conversation Alison has with her mother. At one point the mother mentions a cousin who found herself in a similar situation: "She had it taken care of and now she has a real baby." Although the word "abortion" is not spoken, the reference is clear. And yes, the line made me gasp, but I also read it as a revelation of the mother's character and the amount of support she will give to Alison, not as a grand statement on abortion.
  4. Although the pregnancy might have a negative effect on the trajectory of her career, I can understand why Alison decides against an abortion. She's in her mid-20s and has already worked on her career--and the unexpected pregnancy means reevaluating her perspective on what's important.
The last thing I just have to say something about is Rebecca Eckler's recent accusation that Apatow and Rogen stole the idea from her book, also titled Knocked Up. Her book (apparently, since I haven't read it) recounts her experience getting pregnant just after her engagement party. She says that what convinced her was the fact that Alison is an up-and-coming journalist, as Eckler was. Never mind that they're in different fields (entertainment vs. print--and Alison is based in LA where everyone's in LA). Oh, and her fiance was also a Canadian Jew. Never mind that Rogen himself is a Jew who was born in Vancouver--they couldn't have gotten the idea from that. But I think the best take on this is a Toronto Star column by Patricia Pearson (not sure if registration is required, but take a look)! Pearson has written a novel, Playing House, with a plot that matches Knocked Up (the movie) even more closely, yet she has no plans on suing. As she points out, there are certain elements that are great comic fodder and it's probably all coincidence.

And it is definitely the case that Knocked Up frequently taps into emotions that many of us can relate to. As Trillian and I noted, there were certain points where we could tell who in the audience was a parent, because their laughter rang louder at things that elicited little reaction from the younger crowd. Nor does the movie gloss over fears and frustrations--though it does usually manage to twist them for a laugh. These probably hit me harder than most other people in the audience, and I found myself close to tears over things like the ultrasound images, but it was also cathartic to both laugh and cry so freely.

It says something that Trillian and I still are talking about this movie, a week after seeing it. This will make it to our DVD collection.


metro mama said...

I'm hearing so many good things about this movie!

kgirl said...

Can't wait to see the movie, I know I'll get a laugh out of it. I'm kind of mean, so I'm laughing about the Rebecca Eckler thing too. I heard Josh Rogan on the radio yesterday saying that he went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride once, so maybe he should get a cut of that film.

cinnamon gurl said...

Wow, I'm surprised at the number of positive reviews I've read of Knocked up In the blogosphere... somehow the trailers just make me not want to see it. But maybe that's because I hate Izzy on Grey's Anatomy.

Aliki2006 said...

I want to see this, too--I've heard tons of great things about it and your review just further fuels my desire to see it.

crazymumma said...

I have been surprised that so many people recommend this one! i must go and see.....I just know I will laff my ass off.

and Will Farrell. He just has to stand there and I laff.