"We're gonna party and get drunk and rock out, dude." — Fogell in Superbad (2007)
In the spring of 2007, at the age of 84, Norman Mailer, at the Paris Review tribute in his honour, was aked why he was so obsessed with his book The Deer Park. He replied, "Because it's about the trouble men and women always have, dealing with each other. It's a mystery. I still can't figure it out".
Superbad (2007), directed by Greg Mottola (who directed three episodes of Arrested Development), is written by Seth Rogen (Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, Fanboys) and Evan Goldberg (co-writer of a new film combo with Rogen, Pineapple Express) and produced by one of the last kings of comedy, Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall). The film tells the story of two best school friends, Seth (Jonah Hill, Accepted, Knocked Up) and Evan (Michael Cera, Arrested Development, Juno), who are going to be headed to different colleges due to Evan's acceptance at Dartmouth.
The plot initially hides that these two socially detached teenagers in fact share a deep fear of their upcoming separation (one of the working titles of Superbad's production was Separation Anxiety). This separation anxiety is depicted in comical ways throughout the movie, although in the last act it reaches an unexpected level of seriousness and nostalgia from an adult angle not too frequently seen in the teen flick genre.
In fact, the story advances with abrupt emotional changes that have little in common with its hysterical initial moments (see, for example, the first two scenes, when Seth is shown as little less than a sexual obsessive and Evan seems like a sort of textbook passive-aggresive sidekick to his overweight pal). Maybe the first verbose exchanges about porn sites sounds very crude but in the second scene the dialogue is masterfully hilarious, raunchy, and bizarre:
"It's not fair they get to flaunt that stuff… and I have to hide every erection I get."
"Just imagine if girls weren't weirded out by our boners."
"I honestly see now why Orson Welles ate his fat ass to death."
Emboldened by his interest in sex ("The point is to be good at sex by the time you get to college…"), Seth flirts with Jules (Emma Stone) in Home Ec class while they make tiramisu. She announces she's going to throw a party and invites these stay-at-home no-lifers, who see her invitation as a golden ticket to their coveted deflowering.
Add to the easily excitable duo a self-confident, skinny dweeb called Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Little Big Men, Year One), who constantly annoys the hell out of Seth and Evan with his crazy ideas, like adopting the fake identity of "McLovin", a 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor, in order to buy liquor for Jules' party. The trio's purpose in attending the party is to score with some attractive girls with whom they have been infatuated for years at school, a smiling cutie Becca (played by Martha MacIsaac, The Last House on the Left) whose cleavage has Evan's attention in math class, popular hottie Jules, or in McLovin's case, one random, red-haired chick called Nicola (played by Aviva, Forgiving the Franklins) with whom he barely exchanges some embarrassing words in the hall.
Aboard a "Vag-tastic Voyage", their plans for enjoying the graduation party thrown by the lovely Jules in her parents' absence start to go downhill almost immediately. Two policemen, Officers Michaels (Seth Rogen) and Slater (Bill Hader, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Saturday Night Live), take McLovin into custody after a liquor store robbery goes awry while he's trying to illegally purchase alcohol. Seth and Evan accept a lift from a dubious stranger who drives them to a party where Evan is forced to sing surrounded by crack addicts while Seth receives a period blood stain splashed over his slacks. We also witness a heated argument between the pair when Evan begins to be aware of the risk they are courting.
"l've just sat around wasting all my time with you. And now I'm going to college a fucking, friendless virgin," a bitter Evan reproaches an obstinate Seth in a rather sad scene.
Our trio experiences more maniacally weird encounters (once Fogell is allowed by his friendly "kidnapper" cops to continue his quest for sex) when they come at last to the party, where most of girls are, like Becca, already drunk, and they will try to seduce/get seduced by these young ladies for the first time, although they may not be totally ready for it.
“It’s funny to show people who both want intimacy and are terrified of it,” says Apatow. “The guy who’s going to put his heart out there, either to be embraced or be crushed."
At this point, we've got plenty of awkward conversation:
Seth: "You're drunk, Jules."
Jules: "Yeah, I'm actually — I'm not drunk at all. I don't even drink, so it's…"
Seth: "Jules, you drink. You drink."
But the stellar scene in awkwardness is between Evan and Becca. During one scene, Evan says, "It's a meaningful sweater to me. It's vintage," as he finds himself freaked out and numbed by alcohol as he tries to slow down the drunken advances from an intimate and intimidating Becca. This anticlimactic sex scene works as the reverse of the standard Hollywood resolution. Evan delivers a hazily touching justification for stopping the girl of his dreams: "Becca, this is kind of intense. And I just — I'm so drunk. I can't even, like, process this. And you're really pretty. And I just think this isn't how I pictured it."
Prey to the "bedroom blues", Evan grabs the bottle back while the cops show their goofy authority again, entering the party like two representatives of sexual law and order, blocking Fogell's sexual interlude with the pretty Nicola. Needless to say, the antihero of the show is McLovin; he's really the "superbad" of Superbad. As Fogell is getting arrested by the crazy cops, one party-goer bows to him: "Fogell's a badass."
A very poignant scene in the last part of the film focuses on the reconciliation between Evan and Seth, as they confess their love for each other, which isn't gay, it's just – as all the film celebrates – "guyness" — a good feeling that is born by valuing the best friendship.
Seth: "I love my best friend, Evan."
Evan: "It's… it's the most beautiful thing in the world."
In Knocked Up there is a similar exchange about love between Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd:
Ben: "You can’t accept love?"
Pete: "I don’t know what it is…"
Ben: "Love! The most beautiful, shiny, warmy thing in the world."
What I like about Apatow is the pattern in his vision, the inevitability that every important filmmaker adopts in their storytelling, as he admits himself in this interview for the San Francisco Chronicle:
Q: Maybe this is your Preston Sturges period, your little blast.
A: Yeah, and then it's over.
Q: And then there's that trap where they want you to do the same thing
over and over.
A: Yeah. They don't have to worry about that, because I will do the same
thing over and over. I don't know anything else".
DVD extras and special features:
There are eight minutes of deleted and extended scenes, some previews, "Line-o-rama" (a collection of improvised lines), a gag reel, cameos in "Cop Car Confessions", "Making of Superbad (behind the scenes footage), "Vag-tastic Voyage" segment, "Original Table Read" (Seth and Evan are read by Seth Rogen and Jason Segel), Michael Cera in the "Dancing Title Sequence", Pineapple Express first look (the next film from Rogen and Apatow) and a commentary track.