Knocked Up

Back in March, Blue Gal was decidedly unhappy with the entire concept of the movie Knocked Up, and swore just on the trailer that she wouldn’t even rent it. But, citing Judd Apatow’s history as a brilliant writer of real people and real people’s lives (Freaks & Geeks, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), I exhorted her to withhold judgment and see the film. She told me if I saw the movie and liked it, she’d rent it.

BG, put it on your Netflix queue.

I would write a review of the film, except Amanda’s already written an excellent one to which I have but two things to add. [Warning: Her review contains spoilers, as does my little bit below.]

First thing is that Apatow deftly handles an issue I’ve rarely (if ever; none that I can recall) seen addressed so pointedly in his genre—the idea that a guy who makes himself emotionally unavailable to a woman he’s married is (Apatow’s term) a shitty husband, that withdrawing from the relationship whenever one feels like it because one “needs a break” is (Apatow’s term again) mean. It’s the categorical opposite to the ubiquitous sitcom built around the inattentive, immature husband and nagging, substitute-mom wife, in which being precisely that kind of mean—hiding out in the basement, lying and scheming to avoid family obligations, making your wife look stupid for depending on you—is routinely exploited for laughs. As Amanda says, “The ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ relationship between Alison’s sister and brother-in-law is exposed as the miserable hell those relationships really are, and there’s no tidy resolution for their problems.” Indeed. And one of Apatow’s most skillful touches here is to distinguish between a guy who’s just immature and a guy who’s emotionally unavailable and undependable, rather than letting the former act as shorthand for the latter.

In other words, Apatow retains his well-deserved reputation for writing complex characters. Frankly, if I had any complaint about the film it’s that some of the sillier comedic gags were actually unnecessary distractions from what was a pretty amazing character piece. And I know that his wife, Leslie Mann (who plays Alison’s sister here), contributes, particularly in helping flesh out female characters, so kudos to her, too.

Second thing is that this film contains one of the most brilliantly subversive commentaries on misogynistic language I’ve ever seen. During the movie, the word “vagina” is (notably) used by guys as an insult. And then during the delivery—KAPOW! You get not one but three (IIRC) shots of the baby crowning. And all I could think was: “Awesome! Could there be a better commentary on how fucking stupid it is to use ‘vagina’ as an insult to convey weakness?!” Superb.

Anyone else seen it? What’d you think?

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “Knocked Up

  1. Nick

    The fact that she was completely shaven/waxed in the shots of the baby crowning seemed a little unbelievable to me for a woman 9 months pregnant, not to mention anything but subversive. Maybe I’m wrong.

    Additionally, I found it hard to believe that, after not speaking to the father for 8 weeks, the mother would be so willing to enter into a sexual relationship with him again seemingly just because she decided to keep the baby. That read more like a 12-year-old boy’s fantasy than a well-written character piece.

    Overall I thought the movie was decent and that’s better than expected.

  2. Todd

    I saw it too and I was pleasantly surprised. Not because I haven’t enjoyed Apatow’s other projects (Freeks & Geeks and 40 Yr Old Virgin are great), but because all the hubub I’ve heard recently about the supposedly homophobic content of Apatow’s work (the “I know you’re gay because…” exchange in 40 Yr Old Virgin is often cited). I expected Knocked Up to contain some kind of shocking sophomoric insult to gays in the usual “we don’t hate gays, we’re just playing” fashion, but I didn’t really find that. The word “fag” is used at one point, and the men (clearly portrayed as immature losers throughout the film) often take mock quasi-“gay” pot shots at each other, but none of it is done in a mean-spirited gratuitous way. In other words, there is nothing homophobic or gay played for laughs within the story. Unlike the trailers for I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, which seems to be one long gay joke.

  3. It was an entertaining and, at times thoughtful movie. The baby photos of cast and crew during the closing credits was, I thought, not only a nice touch, but certainly seemed to validate what Apatow was trying to say. (A point I thought Amanda missed in her review.)

    And Nick, it is the norm during all surgery for the area to be whisked clean of hair.

  4. Melissa McEwan

    anything but subversive

    Um, shaving is a part of the birth plan for a lot of women. In fact, many hospitals recommend it and some even require it. It has nothing to do with “sexiness.”

    the mother would be so willing to enter into a sexual relationship with him again seemingly just because she decided to keep the baby

    She wasn’t “so willing.” She had very mixed feelings about it; that was sort of the point.

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  6. Yep, your right Melissa. When I had my baby a year ago, I made sure I trimmed up the whole area down there. I knew there would be enough ucky feeling stuff going on down there without the added ucky factor of a lot of hair, too.

    But thanks for the post about this movie. I also was hating the concept of this movie, but will now give it a shot when it comes available to rent, or more likely, on cable. (We don’t get to see a lot of first run movies with a 1 year old at home.)

  7. Melissa McEwan

    In other words, there is nothing homophobic or gay played for laughs within the story.

    No, I didn’t think so, either. I didn’t think anything particularly misogynistic was played for laughs, either. It was, like you said, more about guys who haven’t ever stopped to consider why using “vagina” to slam another dude might be considered offensive.

  8. Everything by Apatow RULEZ! I liked this movie a lot. 40-year-old virgin was better, but this one had a lot of laughs and believable characters and situations as well. The lead characters (Rogan and Heigl) were, in my opinion, two of the weakest actors, but they did a passable job. Seeing a lot of the cast from F & G was cool. Even James Franco made a cameo. Ryan Seacrest made a cameo as well. It was unnecessary and annoying – what a camera whore – can’t he just go away?. My favorite characters were the sister Debbie played be Leslie Mann, and the E! person that sat next to Heigl during the job interviews. She was hilarious in her passive aggressive yet shy and likable minor role. Even the kids were funny without being too cutesy

    Go see it!

  9. Melissa McEwan

    Even the kids were funny without being too cutesy

    Those were Apatow’s and Mann’s daughters, btw.

  10. Nick

    Guess I was ridiculously wrong about the shaving. Sorry everyone. Feel free to use me as an example of how removed from and ignorant of women’s reproductive issues/health (some) men are.

    As for the second part of my comment:
    The entire plot of Knocked Up centers around two important decisions made by the lead female character: 1) To keep the baby 2) To reenter into a (sexual) relationship with the father. I can understand the writer/director leaving her reasons for her making one of these decisions ambiguous, but both of them?

    If the whole movie is going to center on her mixed feelings about staying in a sexual relationship with the father, shouldn’t we know why she got into one in the first place?

  11. (Um, not to be a jerk about this, but that’s “helping flesh out female characters.” The fact that they’re not flushed out is part of the point of your review :} )

  12. kathy a

    good review.

    but wait a minute. shaving is part of a birth plan? required by hospitals?? i’m well past childbearing prime, but have they actually managed to make childbirth involve more discomfort and humiliation in the last 18 years? of all the birthing horror stories i’ve heard, i don’t think a single one involved pubic hair.

  13. car

    I guess I haven’t seen enough movies lately – how on earth were they able to show a baby crowning and still have an R rating?

  14. Misty

    The fact that she was completely shaven/waxed in the shots of the baby crowning seemed a little unbelievable to me for a woman 9 months pregnant, not to mention anything but subversive. Maybe I’m wrong.

    Some women enjoy the brazillian, especially when pregnant. Once you get to a certain point of being so large, trimming or the like becomes impossible to do on your own–this I know from a very amusingly pathetic experience, LOL. Being waxed takes care of a lot of that.

    And Nick, it is the norm during all surgery for the area to be whisked clean of hair.

    If the baby was crowning, it’s a vaginal delivery. It is NOT routine to be shaved for delivery any longer (in this country).

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about this movie and I plan on seeing it.

  15. Melissa McEwan

    (Um, not to be a jerk about this, but that’s “helping flesh out female characters.” The fact that they’re not flushed out is part of the point of your review :} )

    Ha! Thanks for pointing that out. Will update…

  16. The fact that she was completely shaven/waxed in the shots of the baby crowning seemed a little unbelievable to me for a woman 9 months pregnant, not to mention anything but subversive.

    Maybe this has changed some, but I imagine it’s still standard procedure for hospitals to completely shave women before they deliver.

  17. Misty

    I imagine it’s still standard procedure for hospitals to completely shave women before they deliver.

    No, for vaginal birth it’s not, just as giving an enema is no longer routine practice.

  18. yes I will add it to the queue. Pronto. Thanks, Melissa.

  19. grape_crush

    ..how on earth were they able to show a baby crowning and still have an R rating?

    There’s nothing really sexual about the couple of 1-second shots of childbirth…You could ask the same question about the last scene of Boogie Nights.

    Regarding the movie, I’ve read various reviews/commentaries (including Amanda’s over at Pandagon) and I’m struck by how many people focus on the terminate-or-keep aspect of the movie…the pregnancy is more of a plot device Apatow uses to say explore the characters, their relationships, and their various issues.

    And, fer God’s sake, it’s a comedy. A happy-yet-unrealistic ending is not exactly uncommon.

    Oh yeah, the movie is very good and funny…if you don’t take it (or yourself) too seriously.

  20. Melissa McEwan

    I’m struck by how many people focus on the terminate-or-keep aspect of the movie

    Part of the reason for that is because anti-choicers were championing the film as a “pro-life” triumph, and there were (erroneous) reports that abortion was not even discussed as an option.

    I think it’s also an indication how important an issue is it to people. I imagine very few women in the primary demographic for this movie have not been been faced with a similar decision, even if only in theory because of a late period that sends them into a panic. I’ve been there–and you start thinking about all your options. It’s scary. And it’s a Big Deal. And so it’s something which won’t be regarded as simply “a plot device” for lots of viewers.

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  22. Misty is correct: mandatory shaving and enemas for vaginal delivery have pretty much gone the way of the Dodo bird, thank goodness. I suppose you could ask to be shaved if you wanted, but trust me, when you’ve got seventeen stitches on one end and two sore, Hindenburg-sized breasts on the other, the last thing you want is the unbearable itch of regrowth.

    The best thing to do for pre-birth cleanliness and relaxation, as long as your water hasn’t broken, is take a nice warm bath.

    You should still write a birth plan, though, and have lots of signed copies distributed to your OB or midwife, the nurses, and anyone else who may take part. Mainly because you may be shrieking too much to properly communicate your wishes. And even more important than that is to fully investigate the policies and routine procedures employed by the place where you intend to give birth. Who can be with you, for example. Whether or not you’ll be allowed to eat something light during extended labor (very important). You’ve got nearly nine months, so investigate away.

    As for this movie, well, fuck it, I’m a Mama–which means I’ll most likely have to see it on DVD.

  23. Susan

    litbrit:

    when you’ve got seventeen stitches on one end and two sore, Hindenburg-sized breasts on the other, the last thing you want is the unbearable itch of regrowth.

    Thank you! I had my first baby 18 years ago in a large major metropolitan hospital, and it certainly wasn’t standard procedure then. (Giving birth vaginally is not surgury, btw.) If anyone had tried to shave me, I would have kicked them silly (no meds).

  24. PortlyDyke

    “You should still write a birth plan, though, and have lots of signed copies distributed to your OB or midwife, the nurses, and anyone else who may take part. Mainly because you may be shrieking too much to properly communicate your wishes.”

    Now THAT is a piece of true-life (and very practical) advice! LOL!

  25. Nick, if it’s any consolation, I’m a childless woman, and I had the same reaction to the shaving. Not just men who are out of touch, apparently.

  26. Spike Lee was ahead of the curve on the “baby crowning” shot. Check out the end of Mo’ Betta Blues (1990). Besides, there have been a fair number of shows with birthing shots broadcast on PBS, haven’t there?

    Recently one of our local megaplexes had a panel of the marquee reserved for coming attractions. It had these titles listed (though admittedly not in this order, but wouldn’t that have been a real National Lampoon photo op?).

    WAITRESS
    MR. BROOKS
    KNOCKED UP
    GRACIE

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  28. Susan, If anyone had tried to shave me, I would have kicked them silly

    LOL. You got that right. Even when someone in my room happened to glance my way — or even if I could hear them breathe — I wanted to kick them silly. And I probably would have if I could’ve managed it.

    Melissa, there was an article in the NYT Sunday Magazine a couple of weeks ago about Apatow. He talks a lot about feeling emotionally unavailable to his wife and kids. Maybe he was working through something in the movie.

    I’ll definitely see this movie, but probably when it comes out on DVD. (I loved the 40 Year Old Virgin)

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