Monday, October 8, 2007

"Knocked Up" is as Real as it Gets

The camaraderie of buddies, the difficulties of forming and keeping relationships and starting a new life are all themes in this summer's mega hit Knocked Up.

Brought into the world by writer and director, Judd Apatow (who penned such masterpieces such as
Anchorman and The 40 Year-Old Virgin) begins his film with a look at polar opposite characters Ben Stone and Alison Scott. At the beginning of the film, we see Ben, portrayed by Freaks and Geeks alum, Seth Rogen, a slacker among slackers, smoking an insane amount of pot and playing wrestling games in the pool with his roommates. In comes Alison, played by Grey's Anatomy star and Emmy Winner, Katherine Heigl a hard working twenty-something girl, who's alarm clock chimes every morning at 7 a.m. and who is offered a promotion to an on-camera personality at her job at E! the Entertainment Channel in Los Angeles.

It is clear that Alison, who lives with her older sister Debbie, Debbie's husband Pete and their two young daughters, is not exactly settled into her young adult life but is trying to be. And Ben is living the fantasy of any stoner not yet ready to be responsible in any aspect of life.

Alison and Ben cross paths at a trendy club when Alison and Debbie go out to celebrate Alison's promotion. This is where the actual reality of the film comes into play. Apatow's writing is fabulous as he sets the stage for their impending future relationship and tie to one another. The awkwardness of their first meeting is greatly portrayed by Heigl and Rogen, who first speak when they find it hard to get a bartenders attention. Obviously the alcohol plays the key role in their inevitable late night hook-up, but the tongue-tied dialogue and morning after routine are hilarious and true to life, especially when Alison is leaving their post hook-up breakfast and shys away from Ben's cheek kiss. It is reality at its best.
According to a review by the New York Times:

"This improbable — and improbably persuasive — love story is embedded in what looks at first like a nest of sitcom clich├ęs. The central would-be couple, Ben and Alison, represent the kind of schlub-babe pairing seen more frequently on television than anywhere else."
Cut to 8 weeks later and Alison is interviewing a celebrity on E! when she starts throwing up.

"Well are you pregnant?" asks one of her co-workers.

"That's impossible," says Alison, "you need to have sex to get pregnant."

And as she utters these words, she suddenly realizes...

I liked this movie a lot the second time around. I originally saw it in the theater with who else but my seventeen year old brother. I thought it was too long and still do. There are many scenes that I feel the film could have done without. After talking to my friend about the film, he mentioned that without those scenes, the 9 months of her pregnancy would not have been portrayed correctly. I feel as though I am used to Apatow's films being shorter; the usual 90 minutes a comedy like that should be.

But regardless, every single character in this somewhat lengthy feature, seems like a real person, people that I could actually relate to and would like to be friends with. There is no witty dialogue that I would not normally hear from my own friends, and the emotions from both Ben and Alison when they find out she is pregnant are as true to life as can get.
However, what remains a steadfast criticism of this film is the fact that getting rid of the "mistake" as Alison puts it, is never really an option. Jonah, one of Ben's roommates suggests it by calling it a "shmashmorsen" and no one in the film ever actually mentions the word abortion. When Alison meets with her mother, her mother urges her to "get rid of it" and have a "real baby" later in life. Even though abortion is mentioned, it never becomes a real option for Alison. According to a June article in the New York Times, abortion is a topic not brought up in many films because it would alienate a certain part of the audience.
"Alison, who has just been promoted to her dream job as an on-camera television personality and asked to lose 20 pounds, is torn over whether to keep the man, not the baby."

"Perhaps directors of feel-good movies don’t want to risk portraying their heroines as unsympathetic characters."

Either way, Alison makes an effort to make a relationship work with Ben. Throughout their time together, Alison and Ben do fall in love. At first disturbed by the "job" he has with his roommates of gathering nude scenes from films and putting them on a website,, Alison is later seen helping the boys, watching films and finding the exact time in movies where the stars are in their birthday suits. And Ben becomes more mature. Instead of going out paint balling with his friends, he helps Alison pick out a crib, brings her to her gynecologist appointments and even buys himself an array of baby books to learn all he can. They change one another in many good ways. Alison becomes less hard headed and more relaxed and Ben begins to realize that being responsible also has its perks.

They are still very different though and suffer a big fight after an earthquake rocks the neighborhood in the middle of the night. Ben cares more about saving his precious bong than he does about his pregnant girlfriend. To win Alison back, Ben realizes that he must make a large change in his life. He settles down and gets a "real job" at a web design company and even purchases a condo. It is endearing to watch the 23 year-old wallpaper a section of his newly furnished bedroom for the upcoming child.
The two reunite though during her labor and delivery and realize that they can make it through their differences because they know that the other offers what they need in themselves.

The film also touches on the relationship between Debbie and Pete who went through a similar situation as Ben and Alison and were forced to get married through an unplanned pregnancy. Even though Alison thinks they are wrong for one another, Debbie and Pete do in fact love each other and work at their marriage as much as possible, seen when Debbie thinks Pete is cheating on her, when in reality he is part of an underground fantasy baseball league with other bored husbands.
"In this case the buoyant hilarity never feels weighed down by moral earnestness, even though the film’s ethical sincerity is rarely in doubt. The writing is quick and sharp, and the jokes skitter past, vanishing almost before you can catch them. Rather than toggle back and forth, sitcom-style, between laughter and tears, Mr. Apatow lingers in his scenes long enough to show that what is funny can also be sad and vice versa."
I laughed throughout all of the dirty humor that Apatow puts in all of his films, but the raw reality behind every line in is what I loved most about this movie. It is a film laced with humor, love and those undeniable aspects of life that you wish you could take back but when it comes down to it, are what make life worth living in the first place.

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