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"40 Days and 40 Nights" Movie Review

Shannyn Sossamon and Josh Hartnett in Miramax Films' romantic comedy, "40 Days and 40 Nights."
Photo © 2001 Miramax Films - All Rights Reserved.

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The idea for "40 Days and 40 Nights" sprang from the real-life diary of screenwriter, Robert Perez. Described as a "no sex" sex comedy, the film's leading man (Josh Hartnett) swears off not just sex, but kissing, touching, self-gratification - all things sexual - for Lent (hence the title).

Hartnett stars as Matt, a single, sexually over-active, web designer. Surrounded by beauties (all of this fictional Internet company's female employees look like Victoria's Secret models) and dumped by his long-term girlfriend, Matt's life consists of a series of meaningless one-night stands. Despite all of his conquests, Matt can't keep himself from thinking about Nicole (Vinessa Shaw), the one that got away. His obsession with Nicole has manifested itself in the form of strange hallucinations of large holes opening up in his ceiling while he's in the middle of making love. The holes in his ceiling are keeping him from fulfilling some of his partners (Hartnett's fake orgasm scene is one of the best since Meg Ryan's). The hallucinations become so unnerving that he consults his priest-in-training brother who can't offer much help and who has absolutely no sympathy for him. While leaving the church after a heated discussion, Matt latches onto the idea of giving up sex for Lent.

Naturally no one expects him to last 24 hours, let alone 40 days. And, of course, this is when the new Ms. Right enters his life. Matt meets Erica (Shannyn Sossamon) at the local laundrymat while trying to keep himself occupied. Erica is beautiful, intelligent, and sexy - not exactly what Matt needs to help him with this whole 40 days thing. The question of whether or not he can abstain from sex is further complicated by an office/Internet betting pool, offers of sex from women practically throwing themselves at his feet, along with his overwhelming desire to be with Erica.

"40 Days and 40 Nights" breaks loose from the standard romantic comedy storyline, and does so with some pretty amusing scenes, original dialogue, and entertaining lead and peripheral characters. There are a few scenes that were not only unnecessary to the plot but uncomfortable to watch - one in particular involving a sex discussion between Matt's parents was just way too over the top to be believable - but fortunately the scenes were short and were surrounded by otherwise great material.

This is definitely not a teen movie (it's rated R for very valid reasons) though young Josh Hartnett fans will not doubt be among the movie's biggest endorsers. In “40 Days and 40 Nights” Hartnett proves he is up to the task of carrying off the romantic/comedic leading man role. As his character's mental state deteriorates due to lack of nookie, Hartnett's appearance and mannerisms provide some good laugh out loud moments, without being overplayed or hammed up to the point of being obnoxious.

Though relatively new on the scene, Shannyn Sossamon is already making a name for herself as a romantic leading lady. With starring roles opposite two of Hollywood's hottest young actors (Hartnett and Heath Ledger) under her belt, Shannyn's star is rising fast. Her exotic looks separate her from the pack, and her performances have, thus far, been exceptional.

The supporting cast, including Paulo Costanza as Hartnett's horny roommate and Michael Maronna as the bizarre "Bagel Guy," work so well with, and off, each other that kudos need to be extended to the oft neglected casting director, Joseph Middleton.

Overall, “40 Days and 40 Nights” is raunchy fun. The film's full of rampant hard-ons, a sea of breasts, and naked women on every street corner - plenty of things to keep the males in the audience interested. Female audiences will probably enjoy it as well; there are ample laughs and women may recognize behaviors displayed by the men in this film and relate them to men they know.

Overall Grade: B

"40 Days and 40 Nights" is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity and language.

Director: Michael Lehmann
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Michael London
Screenplay By: Robert Perez
Director of Photography: Elliot Davis
Production Designer: Sharon Seymour
Film Editor: Nicholas C. Smith, A.C.E.
Costume Designer: Jill Ohanneson
Music By: Rolfe Kent
Casting: Joseph Middleton
Art Director: Yvonne Hurst
Set Decorator: Lesley Beale

Matt - Josh Hartnett
Erica Sutton - Shannyn Sossamon
Ryan - Paulo Costanzo
John - Adam Trese
Susie - Emmanuelle Vaughier
Diana - Lorin Heath
Chris - Glenn Fitzgerald
Sam - Maggie Gyllenhaal
Nicole - Vinessa Shaw
Candy - Monet Mazur
Bagel Guy - Michael Maronna
Father Maher - Stanley Anderson
Jerry - Griffin Dunne
Duncan - Jarrad Paul
Neil - Terry Chen
Andie - Christine Chatelain
Mandy - Keegan Connor Tracy

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