It’s all in the de­liv­ery

Knocked Up ( MA15+) Na­tional re­lease Change of Ad­dress ( PG) Lim­ited na­tional re­lease

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Evan Wil­liams

IT’S pos­si­ble rep­re­sents some sort of land­mark in the his­tory of the Hol­ly­wood sex com­edy, as­pir­ing to new lev­els of vul­gar­ity and foul lan­guage. The writer- di­rec­tor, Judd Apa­tow, has called it a ‘‘ filthy, dirty film with a good heart’’. Nor­mally I wouldn’t ap­prove of any com­edy that runs for more than two hours, es­pe­cially one as filthy and dirty as this one. But as Hol­ly­wood sex come­dies go, Knocked Up proves to be witty, touch­ing, per­cep­tive and agree­ably in­tel­li­gent. A 20- minute trim would have im­proved it, but I’ll hap­pily settle for the full ver­sion.

Apa­tow is a spe­cial­ist in the ways of the dys­func­tional Amer­i­can male. In his pre­vi­ous ven­ture into this ter­ri­tory, The 40- Year- Old Vir­gin , Steve Carell’s work­mates are de­ter­mined he should lose his vir­gin­ity, and when the hero finds him­self in bed with the beau­ti­ful Trish ( Catherine Keener), her first ques­tion (‘‘ Do you have any pro­tec­tion?’’) is met with the wimp­ish re­sponse: ‘‘ I don’t like guns.’’

In Knocked Up, when our de­cid­edly non­vir­ginal hero Ben ( Seth Ro­gen) finds him­self in bed for a drunken tum­ble with the beau­ti­ful Alison ( Kather­ine Heigl), pro­tec­tion is the last thing any­one cares about.

Ben’s half- fit­ted con­dom is dis­carded in haste, and eight weeks later Alison’s promis­ing ca­reer as a net­work television in­ter­viewer meets an un­ex­pected set­back when she throws up on cam­era. Preg­nancy tests and a suc­ces­sion of off­putting gy­nae­col­o­gists con­firm her worst fears.

Con­trary to my ex­pec­ta­tions, this is far from be­ing an­other gross sex com­edy of the kind Hol­ly­wood kept serv­ing up in the 1990s. Apa­tow’s script bub­bles with good lines, and the per­for­mances are en­dear­ing. Ben is an oafish no­hoper who lives with four equally slack and gorm­less room­mates.

The idea that some­one as glam­orous and sexy as Alison should find him at­trac­tive is bound to re­as­sure un­couth, pot- smok­ing males. There may be a mes­sage here about the bridg­ing of so­cial and cul­tural di­vides in an age of sex and celebrity. I liked the idea that Ben’s only means of sup­port is an ex- gra­tia pay­ment from the gov­ern­ment of Bri­tish Columbia for an in­jury to his foot. He’s been liv­ing off that for years.

The film is some­thing of an Apa­tow fam­ily en­ter­prise. The di­rec­tor’s wife, Les­lie Mann, plays Alison’s anx­ious sis­ter, and their real- life chil­dren are given the film’s cutest scenes ( in­clud­ing one lit­tle girl’s ac­count of where ba­bies come from that is in marked con­trast to what Alison is en­dur­ing).

Ben’s dis­so­lute room­mates are played ( we are told) by Ro­gen’s friends. Their one ( un­paid) oc­cu­pa­tion is com­pil­ing a web­site called Flesh of the Stars, which pro­vides de­tails of movie scenes in which stars have ap­peared nude ( Meg Ryan, In the Cut , 38 min­utes in). This quasi­porno­graphic web­site sits com­fort­ably in Apa­tow’s quasi- porno­graphic film, and movie buffs may learn some­thing from it.

Af­ter their ini­tial shock and dis­may, our onenight cou­plers are rec­on­ciled to the prospect of par­ent­hood. ( Love is an­other mat­ter, of course, and for the res­o­lu­tion of that dilemma you must wait and see.) Alison is soon shop­ping with Ben for tiny gar­ments, and for a while I thought we were in for a one- joke com­edy about anx­ious sin­gle moth­ers and the wages of one- night stands, but Apa­tow al­lows the story to de­velop along sev­eral lines.

Mean­while, Alison’s pre­na­tal progress is sig­nalled by cap­tions ( such as ‘‘ 28 weeks’’), blurry ul­tra­sound pic­tures and a mag­nif­i­cently swelling tummy. Such a film has only one log­i­cal con­clu­sion, and we ob­serve it in clin­i­cal de­tail amid scenes of great hi­lar­ity in the labour ward.

De­fend­ers of fam­ily val­ues can be as­sured that, what­ever they may think of Apa­tow’s lan­guage and other qual­i­ties, his heart is in the right place.

The smaller parts are well played: I liked Alison’s sour fe­male su­pe­rior at the net­work, and Paul Rudd, as Alison’s hen- pecked broth­erin- law, de­serves his place in the cast on the strength of his Robert De Niro im­per­son­ation. The film is worth see­ing.

* * * CHANGE of Ad­dress is a French ro­man­tic com­edy so light and airy that I’m not sure it has a plot, or even that it can be called a com­edy. Ev­ery­thing seems to hap­pen at ran­dom. Boy meets girl, girl falls for an­other boy, boy falls for an­other girl, other girl falls for an­other boy, other boy falls for girl, and so on. There, I’ve given it all away.

But Emmanuel Mouret, who wrote and di­rected ( and also plays one of the boys), un­der­stands that what hap­pens in a com­edy mat­ters less than how it hap­pens, and while noth­ing in Change of Ad­dress is par­tic­u­larly funny, such laughs as there are spring more from the recog­ni­tion of familiar truths than en­coun­ters with the bizarre or the un­ex­pected.

The set­ting is Paris, a city of quiet streets and undis­cov­ered cor­ners, where David ( Mouret), a horn player, is look­ing for shared lodg­ings and pay­ing pupils. His first need is sup­plied by Anne ( Fred­erique Bel), a daffy, ef­fu­sive girl who of­fers to share her apart­ment with him. Thus David lives chastely with Anne while long­ing to win the heart of Ju­lia ( Fanny Valette), his first pupil, whose horn lessons have barely be­gun be­fore Julien ( Dany Bril­lant) ap­pears from nowhere and re­cov­ers her stolen hand­bag from the clutches of a flee­ing thief.

Julien is a much more dash­ing and worldly fig­ure than the awk­ward David, and Ju­lia is smit­ten. But a kind of old- fash­ioned cour­tesy pre­vails in th­ese en­tan­gle­ments. One lover ad­vises an­other on how best to make progress with a third party. And the per­ils of en­forced in­ti­macy are there to be over­come. Is it pos­si­ble to give a mas­sage to one of the op­po­site gen­der with­out ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an erotic charge? Can a young man share a bath­room with the soaped body of a naked girl while dream­ing of an­other?

Un­likely it may seem at times, but some­how we are in the real world. None of Mouret’s char­ac­ters is es­pe­cially al­lur­ing. Anne strikes me as gauche and silly, and the lovely Ju­lia spends much of the film in spells of in­scrutable si­lence. But com­pared with other re­cent French ro­man­tic tri­fles, ev­ery­thing feels ef­fort­less and con­vinc­ing. Like The Valet , Change of Ad­dress can be called a com­edy of er­rors, but it has none of the strain and con­trivance of Francis Ve­ber’s re­cent film, none of the elab­o­rate com­pli­ca­tion of Orches­tra Seats , the far­ci­cal over­tones of Priceless or the nu­anced in­ten­sity of The Singer , with its mu­sic and star power.

For sheer un­de­mand­ing buoy­ancy it ranks with Pauline at the Beach , the light­est of Eric Rohmer’s moral tales, which gives it a nar­row edge over Knocked Up, for my money any­way.

Preg­nant pause: Alison ( Kather­ine Heigl), right, en­dures an un­planned part­ner­ship and preg­nancy in Knocked Up, and looks to Deb­bie ( Les­lie Mann) for sup­port

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