40 Days & 40 Nights (2002), Runtime - 96 mins, Cert 15.

Director - Michael Lehmann.

Writer - Rob Perez.

Starring - Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, Paul Costanzo & Maggie Gyllenhaal.


Premise - Matt (Josh Hartnett) has been separated from Nicole for 6 months, but still cannot shake her from his mind. Since the break-up he has tried to find comfort in a string of meaningless sexual encounters, but finds only emptiness. In an effort to combat this, he vows to give up all sexual activity for lent. This becomes difficult to adhere to when a book is opened on his abstinence by his workmates and doubly so when he meets and falls for Erica (Shannyn Sossamon).

I was talking to a guy at work today about this film and he asked what I thought of it. My reply was that it ‘wasn’t terrible’. And that’s about the best thing I can say about the film, it wasn’t terrible. The truth is, I didn’t really know what to expect from this film. I had heard some pretty bad reviews, but I have loved films before that have gotten rotten reviews. I thought the premise was pretty dumb, but again, I have liked films with dumb premises in the past.

It’s lucky then that as it turns out the premise here is incredibly dumb. The initial idea of giving up all sexual activity because you can’t get over your ex is stupid enough, but continuing with the abstinence after he finds a new love and has essentially gotten over his ex just plain doesn’t wash. The coincidences and contrivances get more and more ridiculous right up until an ending that is not only stupid, but is basically rape!

Now, since the film ‘isn’t terrible’, it has to have some things going for it, right? Well, yes there are some things in the plus column. The chemistry between the two leads is something special. Sossamon melts the screen and shows that she is one to watch for in the future thanks to this film and ‘The Rules of Attraction’. Given the non-sexual nature of their relationship Matt and Erica must find other ways to show affection. This makes for some interesting scenes, some work well, but some (an orgasm scene with nothing but a flower) are beyond silly.

Hartnett is a strange one, he has made some real stinkers, but I still think that he can be a capable actor. The problem here is that he is hopelessly miscast. Sure, the scenes with Sossamon work, but everything else is just wrong. Hartnett is just too handsome and confident to be believable as the butt of everyone’s jokes. If he was a bit more pathetic, like his boss in the film maybe, then we would be more willing to laugh at him, but because of his personality we just don’t care.

The bulk of the film’s laughs actually come from the supporting players. The previously mentioned boss, who tries to emulate Matt’s abstinence, the sex obsessed room-mate (Paulo Constanzo from Road Trip) and the big mouthed friend of Erica, Sam (Maggie Gyllenhaal). The film is ultimately an uneasy mix of romantic comedy and gross-out comedy and it’s the gross-out sections of the film that provide the bulk of the laughs. However, it’s the romantic comedy side that takes up the bulk of the movie.

40 Days & 40 Nights is a dumb flick which, as the film goes on only gets dumber. However there is some funny stuff in there and the two leads have their share of chemistry. I guess fans of rom-coms may garner more from the film than I did, but if you are looking for a laugh a minute, gross-out-a-thon you would be better served looking elsewhere. Not great, not terrible, it just is.



See 40 Days & 40 Nights if you enjoyed - The Truth About Cats & Dogs, Keeping the Faith, Just Married.

Poster Quote - You may want to give up watching.