40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS
Director: Michael Lehmann
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, Vinessa Shaw, Paulo Costanzo, Adam Trese
MPAA Rating: (for strong sexual content, nudity and language)
Running Time: 1:33
Release Date: 3/1/02
Review by Mark Dujsik
The characters in 40 Days and 40 Nights have one thing on their mind: sex. To everyone around them, itís completely normal. I argue that their world is like a utopia. Not because of what theyíre constantly thinking about, but because thatís the only thing that concerns them in life. Just think about the perks. Job? A nice, cushy position in a hip, trendy office where you do little to no work is taken care of. Sexual harassment at said work environment? Never heard of it. Living arrangements? A perfect apartment complete with best-friend roommate is provided. Not that attractive? Doesnít matter; every woman will still want to sleep with you. What about women? Donít they get the short end of the stick in such a situation? Hardly. They want it just as badly as the men. Give up sex for Lent? The entire world just stops and focuses on you.
Thatís the basic premise for this frustrating (no pun intended) and typical romantic comedy with a lightweight sex farce to fill in the space between. Matt Sullivan (Josh Hartnett) is the celibate man in question. Heís having a very difficult time getting over his last girlfriend Nicole (Vinessa Shaw). He finds solace in sex with anyone willing, but thereís a problem. He is convinced that a black hole opens above him during the act and can never perform properly. So without going into more euphemisms, Matt seeks relationship advice from his brother John (Adam Trese), although itís really no help seeing as heís a seminarian. He thinks the root of his problem is his breakup with Nicole, or maybe itís him, or maybe itís just sex in general. Well, the pastor of his parish offhandedly reminds him of the start of Lent, and Matt decides to simply give up any and all sexual activityóno kissing, no fondling, no self-indulgence... You get the picture. Ironically enough, Matt just happens to meet the pleasant and attractive Erica (Shannyn Sossamon) at the Laundromat soon after committing to his vow.
The movie is a mixture of romantic comedy and sex farce. The flaw in the romance between Matt and Erica is presented relatively early. It would seem that a relationship without sex would be focused on something else, but itís not. Despite whatever the characters say or do (or donít do), their relationship still hinges on sexóitís simply the lack of sex, which is technically the same thing. What do they talk about? Sex. I would imagine if you were a guy whoís decided to abstain from all forms of sexuality, you would avoid all forms of talking about sex simply to keep your sanity. No, Matt and Erica go out on dates and sit in silence only to have the silence broken by Erica saying something about the awkward silence being caused by their lack of sex. Thatís the central arc of their relationship. What else can you expect from a relationship with a woman who is convinced that you canít get to know each other until you kiss. Thereís something falsely simple about that philosophy, although it could easily work as an excuse when any type of relationship comes under hard times. Having trouble with your best friend? Itís probably because you never kissed him or her.
Filling in the gaps of the romance is a surprisingly timid sex comedy. The jokes are so embarrassingly simple and recycled, the movie is a retread of gags weíve seen doneóoccasionally betterócountless times before. Holler if you havenít seen these jokes done before: A priest (in training here) more interested in stories of sexual encounters than he should be, the overly open about their sexual history parents, an obviously aroused man ignorant of his condition walking into a meeting, or slipping an aphrodisiac into someoneís drink. The gags are handled with the comedic flare of nails on a chalkboard, and the punch lines are virtually absent. Either the romantic or sex comedy might be more tolerable if any of the performances had enough charm to carry it off. Hartnett doesnít have what it takes to carry a movie like this, which is a shame because no one else in the movie does either.
40 Days and 40 Nights is a dulling experience. The movie screams been there, done that and offers nothing new to the table. Essentially the lesson to be learned is that if your love interests think and talk about only one, it had better be interesting enough to carry a ninety minute conversation, and if itís not, whatever else you offer will fall just as short.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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