Most of us know Steve Carell’s breakthrough role to be Michael Scott in the famous NBC mockumentary The Office. We all know how the first season was not doing well, and NBC had plans of shoving the show long before it had a chance to show its potential. The reasons cited were lack of audience interest and an unpopular cast. But by the time the second season aired, everyone started to love the show. Everyone knew a little about the main cast, and Steve Carell was already a famous movie star.
How is that you ask? It was for a film titled The 40 Year Old Virgin. The film’s original idea was based on a sketch that Carell used to perform with his improv comedy troupe. Later Judd Apatow was brought in by Carell to co-write and direct the film while Carell starred as Andy.
The movie, as the title suggests, is about a 40-year-old virgin named Andy, a clerk at an electronic goods store, whose colleagues resolve to lose his virginity. Andy Stitzer is a shy 40-year-old virgin, who lives alone in his apartment filled with his collection of action figures and video games and is an electronics store Smart Tech employee. The movie is a laughter riot as Andy desperately tries to hide this fact about himself from his girlfriend and also the mother of two from her previous marriage, Trish, played by Catherine Keener.
But what adds on to this love story is how Andy’s friends David, Jay, and Cal played Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen help him strip off his fear of shyness. As friends, they not only normalize the fact that it is okay to be a virgin at that age but also help him feel confident about his personality and character.
Through various “processes” of identifying his inner confidence and meeting the right girl, Andy enjoys a good promotion and soon becomes a hot topic in the neighbourhood. He builds up courage and finally asks out a woman he met from a store across the street named Trish. They start dating, and it’s all well until the topic of intimacy comes, and Andy keeps avoiding it.
The penultimate scene has Trish find out about a collection of R-rated videos at Andy’s place, given to him by David, and she dismisses him as a pervert and a psycho serial killer.
Andy then pursues Trish on his bike but collides with her car and flies through a billboard truck’s side. Trish rushes to his side, and Andy finally confesses that he is a virgin explaining his behaviour. They finally embrace, and everyone enjoys a big lavish wedding ceremony.
The film’s remarkable thing is that it overcame barriers of demographics and still managed to make 177.4 million dollars in 2005. Adult comedies in those years were few to none, and even the successful ones like American Pie were centred around young adults. So for it to succeed was a huge deal for the genre as well.
Everyone cast gave their comedic best, and full credits to them as most of the film contained impromptu dialogues. But having said that, we can not take away how both Carell and Apatow structure the comedy as at no point does it seem perverted or uncomfortable. From shooting an actual waxing scene to Steve Carell flying through a billboard, it had it all. The film was loved by both critics and audiences and was listed as AFI’s Top 10 Films of the Year. Needless to say, if you are a fan of adult comedy, this movie is a must-watch.
As for The Office, the producers, after the first season, were worried that Michael was coming across as too nasty and menacing when they wanted him to be more likeable and sympathetic. In the end, Carell’s performance in this film helped the producers to subtly re-shape Michael in season two into a more sociable – if still fundamentally goofy – character. The film changed all of that in a matter of just 116 minutes of its run time.
The film also featured short cameos from other The Office cast such as Jenna Fischer and Mindy Kaling, the latter of whom stars as David’s ex-girlfriend. The Office got famous after the 2nd season as audiences were more welcoming and went on to win The Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series and eventually rose to prominence as one of the best shows of the 21st century.
In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the viewers tasted a delicious appetizer to Carell’s fantastic main course in the following years. Fifteen years since its release, it still is a classic comedy.