S U M M A R Y a n d P L O T
The movie is simple and easy to summarize. After being dumped by the supposed love of his life, the protagonist Matt tries his traditional method of sleeping with every woman he can in order to forget his Amy. When things don't work out like they should and he starts to flip out a little, Matt looks for alternate methods of therapy. Because his brother is a Catholic priest, and Lent is coming up, Matt decideds that a complete abstention from all things sexual just may give him the clarity he needs to see what he want from women and life. To complicate matters, he soon meets a woman that he falls in love with after starting his quest.
Here is a major point and spoiler to bring up (as it is the climax of the movie); the casual treatment of a rape-scene. Matt loses his quest for the 40 days when his ex decides to tie him up while he's barely conscious and delerious and fucks him. In Matt's delerious state he believes (or dreams depending on interpretation) that he is having sex with his new love, Erica. This theme has already been discussed very well here.
The movie's humor is sophomoric and the chemistry between the lovers is a tad unbelievable. Some of the scenes discuss sex in a frank nature that does sometimes ring true, but all in all the movie fails to garner all the aspects that make a good film. It's subject matter, while not original, does bring up some interesting discussion.
T H E M E S
The gaining of power through abstinence
There have been plenty of philosophies that view a man's sexual spring of energy to be a cultivatable force. It is used in Tantra and Taoism. Some athletes swear off sex before a big game in order to use that extra power as an edge. The movie takes the idea that one can have too much of a good thing. Matt overloads on energy and his mind reels out of control. The traditional Zen philosophy that the middle-ground and balance will win out is the route the movie takes.
Man Does not Live on Bread and Water Alone
Food, water and some sort of protection from the elements are the tools necessary for survival. The movie supposes that there is a fourth, and that by abstaining from all sexual indulgence all mental functions begin to break down. In the Seinfeld episode, The Abstinence, this idea is also explored. When Elaine ceases all of her extra-curricular activity the sharpness of her mind is dulled. For women, as Jerry puts it, "sex is like taking out the trash." George's abstinence allows for him to focus all the energies of his brain on science and language and art. Jerry supposes that perhaps 90% of George's brain was devoted to the acquisition of women, and with that worry gone the brain is awash with fresh activity. This is the goal that Hartnack's character in the movie is trying to obtain. He desires clarity and looks to his brother the priest for inspiration. When even the holy-man fails in his puritanical quest, Matt gains anything but clarity. Peace is found then in a balance of sex and the love of a woman, which really comes off as a cliché ending.
Women's power over men through sex
Matt's goal of 40 straight days of abstinence (that means no Onanism, boys and girls) soon spawns a betting-pool between his buddies. As Matt's world spins more and more out of control the stakes of the bets get higher and the actual bets themselves get larger. The women in the bet have an edge here. If they can seduce Matt then he still has lost his way. An interesting point the movie makes here is the anger and frustration that the women begin to feel about Matt's unaffected nature to their overt sexuality. It is regardless of the betting pool, and they begin to find creative ways to trick him into threesomes or lock him in a storage room with a lingeried beauty. It is something to think about, whether women have full realization of the power they have over men, but more importantly, how would their actions change without it?
Josh Hartnett - Matt
Shannyn Sossamon - Erica Sutton
Paulo Costanzo - Ryan
Adam Trese - John
Emmanuelle Vaugier - Susie
Lorin Heath - Diana
Aaron Trainor - Waiter
Glenn Fitzgerald - Chris
Monet Mazur - Candy
Christine Chatelain - Andie
Keegan Connor Tracy - Mandy
Michael C. Maronna - Bagel guy (as Michael Maronna)
Vinessa Shaw - Nicole
Stefanie von Pfetten - Girl in Chinatown
Stanley Anderson - Father Maher
Directed by Michael Lehmann
Written by Rob Perez
Rated R, Running Time: 96 minutes