Thursday, June 21, 2018

"40 Days and 40 Nights" - Apparently My Sense of Humor Has Changed a Bit Since High School

*Reminder: I write these articles under the assumption that you’ve seen this movie. So if you need a summary, go check IMDb.

I Do Have Movies in My Collection that I Am Ashamed of...but I Won’t Sell Them.

As I’ve gotten into a weekly groove with my new format for this sight, I may have forgotten a part of the point of this new theme: writing about movies I’m embarrassed to own. The last couple months I’ve only written about movies that I am proud to own, and I end up liking most of them even more after re-visiting them. This week, however, I came across a comedy I thought I still liked and ended up kind of hating it.

Typically, I don’t like writing about comedies (I will not write a traditional review of a comedy), because sense of humor is completely subjective. But I wanted to write about 40 Days and 40 Nights because it showed me that my sense of humor has changed more than I thought over the last fifteen years.

This might be obvious, as most movies we love as children we acknowledge, as adults, are actually quite bad. But we tend to still love them because of nostalgia. For instance, I can admit that Batman Forever is a lesser, even a bad, Batman movie. But I will always love that movie because I was obsessed with it as a kid. The same goes for most comedies. Sticking with Jim Carrey, I know that Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls is a crappy sequel to an already stupid comedy. But I still find it funny. Perhaps it depends on the type of comedy, but more on that later.

So I don’t like 40 Days and 40 Nights, but there’s no way I’m getting rid of the DVD. First off, physical media is becoming a little less common as most people would rather just stream everything they watch. Second, a new copy of the film is a little over six bucks on Amazon right now, and a used copy is going for just over a dollar. It’s not worth trying to sell, not to mention, who the fuck is buying a used copy of this movie? Finally, I refuse to go through the embarrassment of a secondhand store turning me down again. Years ago, it made sense for me to take a dozen or so DVDs to a video/CD/videogame place and sell them. It would basically be beer money for the weekend (I was in college). I didn’t care if I only got fifty cents for some of them; I just wanted them gone. And then I put the Planet of the Apes remake on the counter. “We’re not taking this one,” the cashier told me. “Nothing. Really?” I asked. “Yup,” he responded as he slid it back to me. I left, ashamed, and I still have that DVD in my collection. After that, selling them just didn’t make sense anymore. Perhaps one day someone will put on a yard sale, and I’ll put fifty or so in a box and ask for ten bucks for the whole thing or something. But, for now, selling any of my collection, especially individually, is not worth the trouble. So 40 Days and 40 Nights is safe. Hey, maybe I’ll come back around and like it again in fifteen years.

Even Don Draper would not have gotten away with this.

I’ve Outgrown Sex Comedies.

The only way I can explain why I like some comedies from my youth, but now hate this one is the subject matter. In this case, it’s basically a teen sex comedy placed in a sort of adult world. I haven’t revisited many sex comedies that I liked when I was younger, so I’m not sure if it’s just this one or not. Maybe I need to watch American Pie again and see what’s up (but I don’t own that one…). With 40 Days sex is treated like it’s a drug everyone is addicted to. It basically takes the line “Sex is a drug” and makes it literal. So when Josh Hartnett gives up all manner of ejaculation, he starts acting like a twitchy drug addict. I guess I found that funny when this first came out (and I was in high school), but not it just seems stupid. Yes, everyone likes sex and ejaculating, and perhaps people can get a bit antsy or angry when they go without it, but to turn into a quivering meth addict seemed stupid to me, not funny.

Sex comedies also always suffer from the passage of time, mainly because the culture changes. But this is why most sex comedies take place in high school, a moment in life when most people don’t feel the need to follow society’s rules. This is why 40 Days is unique. Hartnett works for an internet ad agency (this movie came out in 2002, the era when all movies featured young people working for internet businesses); he’s not a high school student. If his co-workers didn’t factor into his vow of abstinence, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But when you introduce high school sex stuff into an adult workplace (in 2002, no less), it’s impossible to ignore how inappropriate, not to mention illegal, it all is.

First off, the entire office, boss included, get way too involved in Hartnett’s sex, or lack of sex, life. There’s the gambling, which happens in offices all the time, but not usually at a co-worker’s expense. Second, no way would it be accepted for an entire office to talk to a co-worker about sex. It’s one thing for work buddies to bring it up, but eventually the females in the office start conspiring, with one offering to straight up have sex with Hartnett to win the money (but it’s for charity, so it’s okay?), and two of them agreeing to a 3-way with him. The treatment of women in the film is problematic enough, but propositioning a guy to win a bet is just wrong. Finally, Griffin Dunn plays the one of the most inappropriate bosses in movie history. He thinks doing the abstinence thing will make his wife want to have sex with him. She doesn’t, and he turns in a sexual harassment monster at work. He fingers fruit slices because they look like vaginas. He looks up an employee’s skirt. He masturbates at work while the entire office waits outside the bathroom door. And there are no repercussions for any of this behavior. Every single person in that office should have been fired.

But it’s a comedy, right? Sure, but sexual harassment has become painfully unfunny. What’s crazy is that this movie doesn’t take place in the 60s when this sort of behavior might have been slightly plausible. It takes place in 2002. Things were different then, but sexual harassment was not tolerated to this degree. But what do I know? I never worked for an internet company in the early days of web businesses. Maybe it truly was a sexual free-for-all in all these offices. But I doubt it.

Oh, and I almost forgot: Josh Hartnett gets raped by his ex-girlfriend in this movie because she wants to exert power over him...and win the money. The only consequence of this is that Hartnett’s love interest wants nothing to do with him afterward. Shouldn’t the cops have been called? It’s not like he got drunk and had sex with her. He was handcuffed to a bed, sleeping. How is this okay? And why is his new girlfriend so pissed? Yes, he had sex with his ex, but he clearly had no choice in the matter. She saw that he was handcuffed. Shouldn’t she have been more pissed off with his ex? You know, the rapist? Also, imagine if the gender roles were swapped. Something tells me there would have been outrage when this was released. But since it’s a woman, what’s the big deal, right? This is the same kind of double standard that makes it seem like it’s okay for female teachers to have sex with their students. That whole plot point near the end just confirmed to me that this movie is bad, and I should have noticed that, even as a high schooler.

"Does my baggy, long-sleeved undershirt look stupid?"
"Only if you think that newsie hat I wore in the previous scene looked stupid."

This Movie Made Me Pay Attention to the Wardrobe, and That’s Not a Good Thing.

I remember wondering what was going on with the wardrobe back when I first watched this movie, and I just chalked it up to my ignorance of fashion or what’s cool. I’ve always been a T-shirt and jeans guy, occasionally dabbling with a button-up shirt from time to time. So when I saw Hartnett rocking a long-sleeved undershirt for his Lacoste shirt multiple times, I just assumed that was a thing. And when I saw an office dude wearing a turtleneck, I just assumed that was normal in offices? And when I saw the bagel guy dressed like stoner prospector, I assumed that was how “drug” people in cities dressed. And when Shannyn Sossamon dressed like an 80s Communist chimney sweep poet, I just assumed ladies dressed differently in the internet business world.

As far as I can tell, looking back, none of these were things. As much as we like to apply a theme to certain time periods (everyone dressed like hippies in the 60s, or everyone dressed like they were in a music video in the 80s, etc.), there really aren’t distinctive clothing themes for time periods anymore. Sure, there are changing fashion trends, but thanks to the internet (which is ironically present throughout the film), embarrassing clothing choices are identified much faster now and don’t get a chance to take hold. (Remember when everyone thought male rompers were becoming a thing last year? They did exist, but I imagine 90% of sales were the result of people buying them as a joke. Perhaps without the internet, the male romper could have been like Hammer pants in the 90s.)

I don’t hate this movie because of the wardrobe or anything, but I just couldn’t understand so many of the choices when I rewatched it. I just wonder if this wardrobe person just thought they were going to start some trends with this movie or something. Thankfully, they failed.

Random Thoughts

The DVD cover is one of those gloriously lazy romantic comedy covers. This movie could be about anything, literally anything. Do these two rob a bank and go on a killing spree? Do they switch bodies? Are they undercover cops trying to expose the rampant sexual harassment going on in local offices? And the title doesn’t help explain it. Any of those things could occur over the course of forty days. At least the actual poster made it clear that sex was a part of the plot.

This is at 38% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty high, in my opinion. Did some critics simply like that it was a teen sex comedy set in an adult world? Even if the adults acted like high school students?

Speaking of which, Ebert liked it. But since I once liked this movie, I’m counting this one.

I hate these people. All of them.

I somehow almost forgot that this movie features a literal sea of breasts and a washing machine bursting open and spraying semen out. I don't really have anything to say about that, but I felt the need to acknowledge that those things are in the movie.

Remember when Josh Hartnett was a thing? I never really understood it. I like him as an actor, but as a heartthrob or whatever, I never got it.

Why did they cast an office dude that looks so much like Paulo Costanzo. Isn’t one Paulo Costanzo-lookin’ dude enough for this movie?

According to Rotten Tomatoes, this is semi-autobiographical. Was it written after this dude was fired from his day job amid three dozen separate sexual harassment investigations?

Looking back, I guess I just can’t get on board with the premise. I can’t imagine people getting this worked up over a dude abstaining from all forms of sex for Lent.

At the very least, I learned from looking up the cast that the dude from Pete and Pete (bagel guy) is now primarily an electrician for movies.

Oh, and Hartnett does still act, but nothing high profile in years. But I think that’s self-imposed.