40 Days & 40 Nights

"Good"

40 Days & 40 Nights Review


One of the more gratifying feelings a movie critic can have is the feeling of going into a picture expecting tiresome clichés of an overplayed genre, only to discover delightfully surprising freshness and soul where all the hackneyed conventions usually are.

"40 Days and 40 Nights" is such a movie. Misleadingly marketed as just another misogynistic romp through the young male libido, this often ribald comedy about a frustrated 20-something giving up sex for Lent is what the puerile, simplistic "American Pie," "Tomcats" and "Saving Silverman" might have been, had they been made by people with imagination and wit.

Directed by Michael Lehmann -- the man behind the twisted teen angst and irony of the subversive '80s cult hit "Heathers" -- "40 Days" finds many new and inventive ways to make sexual frustration funny.

Resolved to eschew any and all forms of sex (kissing, caressing and self-gratification are all out) because promiscuity isn't helping him heal a broken heart, web site design drone Matt (Josh Hartnett) spends Day One of Lent emptying his apartment of everything remotely salacious: Victoria's Secret catalogs, his roommate's porn, Crisco Oil from the kitchen....

By Day 11 he's getting along OK, but he's begging his boss for extra work to keep himself distracted. When word gets out about what he's up to, Matt's co-workers set up a web site dedicated to his abstinence and start taking bets on how long it will last. Soon they're trying to sabotage him too. Somebody puts Viagra in his coffee. A pair of sexpot secretaries at the big, hip dot-com (was this movie written before 2001 or what?) bet on a particular day for Matt to snap, then corner him in a supply room and try to make an offer he can't refuse while Xeroxing body parts as souvenirs.

What's worse, only a few days into Lent, Matt meets the girl of his dreams, sweet'n'sassy, stylish urban tomboy Erica (Shannyn Sossamon from "A Knight's Tale"). And just guess what she does for a living: She's a "cyber nanny." She surfs the web looking for porn sites to block -- all day, every day.

Restricted by his ever-more-aggravating vow, which he's determined to see to fruition, Matt rediscovers the simple joys of slow romance while falling in love with Erica. They go on non-dates (e.g. spending a day together riding city busses around San Francisco) and seek creative ways to get intimate without, you know, getting intimate. There's a very sexy seduction scene in which flower petals are used as a tool of arousal. Yowza!

The longer this goes on, however, the crazier Matt gets, and Hartnett's personality-popping performance reflects his frustration perfectly with increasingly physical character traits. By the third act, the poor guy has gone all twitchy and walks around almost hunched over with his hands thrust into his pockets almost up to his elbows.

Meanwhile Lehmann and rookie screenwriter Robert Perez consistently find new angles from which to approach the story's more trite elements. Several fantasy and dream sequences have an off-kilter, Coen Brothers-type bent to them. In a family dinner scene, a mortified Matt's can't seem to stop Dad from detailing his attempts to have sex with Mom after his hip surgery. Lehmann lets the laughs come naturally, especially in this scene, which would have been turned into an embarrassing slapstick routine by most Hollywood directors.

However, the movie's best narrative device is also its most clever -- Matt's brother (Adam Trese) is studying to be a priest, so our hero keeps going to confession to get advice on how to quell his cravings. After one session, he's so excited about feeling better that he pops his head out of the confessional, points up to a statue of Jesus, and extollingly exclaims, "Dude!"

"40 Days" is burdened with an overabundance of stock supporting characters, conspicuously tweaked to seem less conventional. It also sinks to the normal, lame level of its genre for the over-scripted movie-misunderstanding climax -- set into motion when, on Day 40, Matt tells his departing roommate to "handcuff me to the bed and leave the front door open." Don't ask.

But even in the picture's weaker moments, Hartnett and Sossamon continue to have great chemistry, and Lehmann continues to be a resourceful and mischievous director who understands the importance of character-driven comedy.

He's also one of the few directors who knows how to capture the character of San Francisco in true-to-life details instead of making the entire city look like one big postcard.



Facts and Figures

Budget: $17M

Production compaines: Miramax Films, Universal Pictures, Working Title Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Matt Sulivan, as Erica Sutton, as John Sullivan, as Susie, as Walter Sullivan, as Bev Sullivan, as Ryan, as Mandy, as Sam, as Bagel Boy

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.