40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) — Less comedy, more of a manual on sex crimes

“Dude, you’re action-packed with issues.”

Lissa’s review: It’s no secret I went to see 40 Days and 40 Nights. I mean, come on — Josh Hartnett was in it, looking quite eye-candy-ish. So what did you expect? You knew I’d go. I’ll bet you thought I’d like it, too.

Guess again.

The further and further I get from this movie (no, I didn’t re-inflict it on myself), the more I detest it. I really, really do. Not for Josh Hartnett, who I still think did a good job in it (pfffft to Justin who thinks he looks like a sleepy tree sloth), but I hate it for the story. That blasted plot. My money might have been better spent if the leading man had just stood there and read a phone book or something.

In case you were living under a rock when this came out, the movie features Josh Hartnett as Matt, a guy who’s just gotten his heart broken and has been using sex to soothe himself. He comes to the conclusion this isn’t working (a rare bout of honesty in Hollywood which promptly must be squashed), and decides to make the vow of total abstinence for the period of Lent. And while I support fully a lot of his decision, I think he went way too far. But there wouldn’t be a movie if he didn’t.

Naturally, as soon as he takes this vow, Matt meets his One True Love Erica (Shannyn Sossamon). While this seems a bit too much of a coincidence, I don’t even have a problem with that, because it DOES seem like every time you truly give up on love and decide to focus on your own life, that’s when you find the “right one” for the time. Of course, Matt’s vow is both a blessing and a curse: they’re able to get to know one another platonically (that’s the blessing), but they can’t have a physical relationship.

40 Days and 40 Nights did do a few things right. I really liked Matt, and found myself wanting him to succeed in his quest. I also really liked how the tables were turned. Matt was the one that wanted to wait for sex, and Erica didn’t know how to cope with it. That was really interesting. I really liked a movie addressing that sex is NOT everything in a relationship, and sometimes it can be a really good thing to wait past the third date. And maybe I laughed sometimes, and maybe I just enjoyed looking at the eye candy. But nothing, absolutely nothing, can resurrect this film for me.

Yet again, Lissa reveals the ending of another movie. Be warned.

A massive bet has been placed by “friends” who don’t seem to get that Matt’s sex life should be private: will Matt make it to Easter, or will he cave? The psycho-ex-girlfriend that started this whole mess weighs in, and decides to win the bet for herself. She goes up to Matt’s apartment, lets herself in, finds him tied to his bed (long story), and has sex with him while he’s half-conscious.

The problem? This is rape. It is not funny. It is not lighthearted. I don’t care if it was a beautiful woman. I don’t care if he was, erm, ready. Matt did not want to sleep with psycho-ex, and however contrived the circumstances, was forced to do so anyway. It’s rape.

Had the movie acknowledged this AT ALL, it might have been saved. Heck, with the way it was bending gender roles in sex, it might have been thoughtful and interesting. (Well… maybe that’s a stretch.) And yet, Matt was made to look like the guilty party for “cheating” on Erica. The audience was supposed to be on Erica’s side, and maybe feel a little bad for Matt. And that bugged me to no end.

Call me too uptight. Fine. Say it’s a simple sex comedy and I’m taking it too seriously. I don’t care. But for the record, I don’t think I am. I don’t think rape is funny — ever. It’s one of those things that do happen, yes, and I’m not even adverse to it being in movies, precisely because it DOES happen. But in a case like this, where it’s treated as something trite and funny… come on people. Have some class.

Additionally, and this is more a peeve than a rant, it would have been really nice if Matt and Erica decided to… I don’t know… continue waiting? The point of this movie was supposed to be that the good stuff in a relationship isn’t just the sex, but the emotional closeness. To see their relationship basically shift from an emotional one to a physical one was annoying.

A few more rants while I’m at it. I joke about guys being oversexed. So does everyone else. But could they have had a few token guys in this movie that didn’t think about sex every second of the day? I mean, guys might not sit around and talk about their feelings or the cute shoes they bought the other day, but they do talk about things like the Flyers not getting to the Stanley Cup, the weeds in their lawn, and did you catch Junkyard Wars on TV last night? And I know I work in a boring old lab where everyone wears pants and closed toed shoes because broken glassware or spilled acid can hurt, but I can’t envision a corporate environment where the girls dress like they do at Matt’s company. Can we say streetwalkers? Internal office memo: thigh high fishnets and microminis are NOT acceptable corporate attire. Usually when a dress code is that relaxed, you see employees in jeans and t-shirts and maybe sweatpants, not in gear by Hookers ’R’ Us.

As much as I enjoy shamelessly using Mr. Hartnett as eye candy, I must admit he’s made some really bad decisions in movies. Pearl Harbor was a complete abomination, and 40 Days and 40 Nights was only somewhat better. And Josh, do me a favor, will you? THINK about your next script. If it shamelessly rips off other people’s accomplishments or uses rape as a comic device, don’t do it, okay?

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