The Movie Binge

Superbad

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I first saw this movie with fellow Binger Karen, who asked after the screening, "Is this a guy thing?" Or something like that. Yeah, I told her, I guess it is.

There are no cigars here. Only penises. Lots of penises. Superbad is the most phallo-centric film I've ever seen, although, to its credit, it manages to expertly demonstrate all the attendant vivacity and existential terror that young men face in the process of sexual maturation. Paradoxically, this film dealt with the theme of men facing maturation more efficiently and maturely than any other Judd Apatow film (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) even though the film focuses on his youngest subjects. As would be expected, the movie has a lot of vulgar male bonding, tough-guy swagger coming from the dweebiest of dweebs, and a conviction that getting with women, while the ultimate goal in life, necessarily means distancing oneself from his friends. Whether or not such a conviction has merit is up for fiery debate, but it's certainly more in line with an 18-year-old virgin's mentality than Apatow's previous outings.

Increasingly, Apatow's best accomplishment is the perceived realism and relatability of his characters. Here, the central friendship between Seth (Knocked Up's Jonah Hill) and Evan (Arrested Development's Michael Cera) is as real to me as any I had in high school, often uncomfortably close to actual conversations and complications I experienced around the time of my own graduation. I've heard some reviewers describe the leads' friendship as being latently homosexual, but I think this is a knee-jerk and dismissive reaction. The truth is, it's a film about homosocial young men, platonic friends in the truest sense, who are faced with the uncertainty of their inevitable adulthood. Since they are teenagers, most of their dialogue, hell, their self-proclaimed raison d'etre, is in the service of their sexual pre-occupations, but the film allows a few sincere, illuminating moments wherein they connect on an emotional level and face, however briefly, both how much they love each other and how apprehensive they are about leaving each other's constant company at the end of the summer.

The inspired subplot features scene-stealing newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the self-christened "McLovin". While running afoul of the law, he finds himself in the company of two incredibly nerdy bad cops who, through McLovin, are trying to prove to themselves that they can still have fun and shrug off their responsibilities. Running directly contrary to the emotional development of the film's teenage leads, the cops drink like punk kids, play with their guns as if they were their dicks and apologize profusely for "cock-blocking" McLovin, proving that as necessary as it is to become adults, the mostly innocent frivolity of youth will always trump the banalities of the adult world.

Yes, Karen, I agree with you that the few female characters in the film are underdrawn, but this, too, I feel works toward the notion that teenage men have absolutely no idea who, or for that matter what, women really are. The characters here are as fascinated with women's sexuality as they are afraid of it. Women are another world for them, one that they will, the film suggests, come to terms with and find as much comfort and friendship in as they do with their understandable albeit immature homosocial realm.

Also, I laughed my ass off. This is the only movie I've reviewed this summer that I've seen twice. Take that for whatever it's worth.

Comments

thanks erik for making me sound like the crazed, feminist-ranting binger. always fun. let's be honest, i think you probably heard me laughing out loud nearly as much as you during the movie. i just had a problem with the menstrual blood bit (as a real life girl, i call bullshit on that ever happening) as well as the overly sophisticated sex talk drunk becca uses in the bedroom. even in the age of lindsay lohan, i found a 17 year old talking this way far fetched.

p.s. i'm not sure how much you can credit this a "judd apatow film" (despite the media's spin) since he neither wrote, nor directed it, only acted as producer.

Yeah, but it really feels like an Apatow film, and I'm sure he had a lot of input.
I'm not trying to call you out as a feminist (a label I'm not sure you'd object to anyway), but you are the only woman I know that's seen this movie and dicussed it with me. I value and appreciate your input!
I think your qualms with the film are absolutely legitimate, just like Seth's drawing "problem" is unrealistic as is the idea that two cops would care about looking cool to a teenager. Even I think the female characters are little more than archetypes. It's not a film without its bullshit, but I think we can both agree that said bullshit is pretty funny and is entirely in line with the themes.

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