40 Days and 40 Nights

Directed by Michael Lehmann
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, Vinessa Shaw, Paulo Costanzo, Adam Trese, Chris Gauthier, Maggie Gyllenhaal.
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity and language.

Review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles <evy@filmhead.com>
March 5, 2002

Okay, so you've looked at the rating and my name and have decided that the only reason I gave 40 Days and 40 Nights three and a half stars is because I am a red-blooded heterosexual female and Josh Hartnett is a young charismatic male actor who's hotter than boiling bacon fat. These two things are true and I have had a slight obsession with the young Mr. Hartnett ever since Halloween: H2O. HE is the reason why I went to see the movie, but he is not the only reason why I loved it more than any sex comedy I've seen since Jeffrey (1995).

The main reasons for that are first-time screenwriter Rob Perez and veteran quirky comedy director Michael Lehmann (Heathers, Hudson Hawk, The Truth About Cats and Dogs). Together they have fashioned a clever, earnest, whimsical, Lenten sex farce that manages to touch on weightier subjects (faith, attraction vs. love, and gender politics) without getting bogged down in them.

Josh Hartnett plays Matt Sullivan, a young dot-commer who is obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Nicole (Vinessa Shaw). His loneliness and his roommate, Ryan (Paulo Costanzo), drive him into the arms of every girl he meets. His sex life should be flourishing, but whenever he nears climax, he panics. He sees cracks in his ceiling and a big black hole waiting to swallow him up. Matt is a practicing Catholic with a brother in seminary, so he decides to give up all sex (no kissing, fondling, fornication or masturbation) for Lent (the forty days and forty nights of the title). His brother thinks he can't do it. His roommate thinks he shouldn't do it, and his co-workers have set up a betting pool that he can't do it. Then he meets quirky, wonderful Eryka (Shannyn Sossamon), and to win her he must do it (complete the 40 days, you pervert).

The script is masterful, as is Lehmann's direction and the integration of fantasy into his carefully crafted reality. Matt's nightmare sequences are splendid as is the Disney-esque sequence after Matt announces his celibacy. I found the no-sex sex scene a little long, but my husband thought it was sweet. He didn't like the sea of breasts in one of Matt's fantasies but I thought it was hysterical. The film is a pretty hard R (more nipples than The Forsaken [That's a lot of nipples. --Ed.]) and a whole lot of lewd talk, but it is also funny in deeper ways than the Porky's series (which are a fine set of films in their own right, but a whole lot cheaper).

The actors fully embrace the dilemmas of the script. Josh Hartnett plays Matt as if his life depended on not having sex. Many of the scenes work because he is so earnest and sincere about everything. He really does look like he is going through hell. Paulo Costanzo gives equal weight to Ryan's horror at Matt's celibacy. Costanzo is constantly entertaining as is Chris Gauthier as Matt's scheming co-worker, Mikey. The co-workers get the best lines in a script that is jam-packed with zingers. Shannyn Sossamon is much better in this, her second film, than in her first (A Knight's Tale), and she was pretty delightful in that one. The charming Maggie Gyllenhaal as Erica's best friend gives my favorite female performance. She is sassy-best-friend personified, and it is nice to see her in slightly mainstreamier material (If you haven't seen her in Donnie Darko or Cecil B. Demented, rent them now).

40 Days and 40 Nights is a completely satisfying good time and a delightfully raw romantic comedy that supplies hearty laughs and glorious eye candy for any and all sexual orientations. Ha-Ha and Yum-Yum.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)

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