Thursday, August 30, 2007

Superbad: Thoughts

I dedicate this post to The Dropcloth and her dearly departed Augustus:

It is good advice, if one wishes to maintain their credibility, to avoid the dreaded “overstatement”, less one be thought simple, or worse, gullible. It is with such thoughts in mind that I can say, without equivocation, that Michael Cera is…the funniest man alive! Being aware that Cera is only 19 and hardly “manly” material, it is a bold claim, especially while Bill Murray lives. But I’ve come to realize that I prefer Cera’s turtleish concern over Murray’s drunken (and increasingly weird) buffoonery. Basically, there is nothing Michael Cera does that hasn’t make me laugh (here, here, or here). This may be due largely to the fact that I was indoctrinated early on by Cera’s performance as the earnest but clueless George Michael from Fox’s short lived Arrested Development (or the fact that every episode of his web-show, Clark and Michael, has been downloaded onto my X-Box 360).

In Superbad (produced by Judd Apatow), Cera plays Evan, an every-dude who just wants to get to know his childhood crush, Becca. Jonah Hill (no doubt reminding many in the theater of Jonah Hill’s Jonah from Apatow’s other film this summer, Knocked-Up) plays Evan’s best-bud Seth, a guy desperately willing to do whatever it takes to obtain your average blow job (the vagina being “not his thing”—a mysterious region too complicated to master in relation to the simple/expected high school blow job, "expected" because, well…the internet says so). If the internet is to be blamed for the sexual revolution/perversion of teenage youth, the one thing it has undoubtedly failed to do is provide answers regarding adolescent inadequacies and conflicted morality, instead serving up the illusion of false intimacy... and a blow job becomes just a blow job. But porn is very clearly not intimate, and what it offers is far beyond the purview of love, which is, after all, what most teenagers really crave in the companionship that will offset the growing existential angst of adulthood (in this case, Dartmouth). Well, at least Evan does… Towards the end of the film it’s heartening to see Evan, when confronted with his (or Seth’s) “ideal” moment to (as the immature cops played by writers Rogen and Goldberg) “engage”, can’t seem to access those downloaded vulgarities and instead falls back on old faithful…health class: Becca: I’m so wet right now. Evan: Yeah…they said that would happen in health class. Ha! And he means it! Cera is like Murray without the irony or arrogance. Apatow is wise to hitch his wagon to actors like Cera, Rudd, and Rogen, decent mopes who feel the withered pull of chivalry filtered through MTV, the internet, and 80’s comedies.

Of course Apatow and crew understand that such goodness can only stand out when contrasted with the most crass male stereotypes, which is why the addition of Hill as Cera’s partner makes them such a winning duo; both look like turtles (one in face, one in shape—neither in speed: “He’s… he’s, the fastest kid alive…”). Still, Apatow is canny enough to understand that a majority of the male audience coming to Superbad live immersed in the world of porn, completely detached from the real intimacy of oral sex, or the notion that reciprocation is indeed, in fact, simply that, and not intimacy. Those people will probably find Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s (McLovin) misadventures more humorous, and see Becca’s “sex-kitten” behavior as a great missed opportunity and not the confused attempt to connect that it is (as if women don’t watch porn and have to deal with its expectations). If a larger critique of youth sex-culture (a Hollywood film subject since Porky’s) goes unnoticed, what will not is the tired but true struggle of male fidelity, epitomized in Seth’s desperate rescue of BFF Evan from the cops; watching Seth use Evan’s head to clear a table of beer bottles says more about the adolescent effort to maintain our pseudo-sexual male relationships than an hour spent engaging in ethnic chop sokey in a Paris brothel (take that Brett Rattner and Rush Hour 3).

In short, it’s hard to declare Superbad the best film of the summer, but I wouldn’t rule out calling it the most decent. You know, if I were prone to overstatement…

1 comment:

The Dropcloth said...

brills. thanks for the tribute, and the insights, which i agree with A-Z. i hadn't noticed what you so eloquently described--that frisson between porno expectations and awkward reality.

although...i'm also with emma. it's hard to laugh at a movie featuring protagonists who are grossed out by women's bodies (a vagina by itself?!?). also a little sick of women being concerned mostly with catalyzing male development.

but i did laugh my silly little head off.

let's hang. i bartend on friday at oxo, so you and maya should come in, but i'm free to blink under the bright court square lights whenever else.