40 Days and 40 Nights

on March 01, 2002 by Annlee Ellingson
Josh Hartnett, who has appeared in teen genre staples such as the horror flick “The Faculty” and the romance “Here on Earth,” saw his star status explode last spring upon the release of “Pearl Harbor,” a popular popcorn pic from which, though the film was largely panned by critics, he emerged relatively unscathed. Since then, Hartnett has starred in more adult fare--“O,” the dark adaptation of “Othello” set in a modern-day high school, and “Black Hawk Down,” the gritty war drama positioned for Oscar consideration. “40 Days and 40 Nights” is a cross between the two oeuvres: a doe-eyed romance that will appeal to Hartnett's pre-teen fans but with a raunchy edge that renders it inappropriate for them.

Hartnett stars as Matt, a single twentysomething hopping from bed to bed in an ill-conceived effort to get over a bad breakup. Finding no solace in the arms of strangers, he turns to his brother, a Catholic priest, for advice. While in the confessional, he stumbles upon the concept of giving up something for Lent and decides he will sacrifice sex in all its forms--no kissing, no touching, no intercourse--for 40 days and 40 nights.

As luck would have it (or, rather, not), Matt soon after meets his dream girl, Erica (Shannyn Sossamon, who starred in another popular teen movie, “A Knight's Tale”). But, determined to finish what he has started, Matt sticks to his vow, despite the pressures of new love and his conniving dot-com officemates (a detail that dates the film in this era of web firm backlash).

Hartnett and Sossamon (who has proven to be a most charming overnight starlet) are cute together and convey real chemistry, but their fun, easygoing interaction is crudely offset by Matt's early, frank sex scenes, explicit love-making and a disturbing, ahem, climax. Yet the coarse content isn't exaggerated enough to attract the “Not Another Teen Movie” crowd. Part romance, part raunch, “40 Days and 40 Nights” has difficulty sticking to a consistent tone. Starring Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon and Vinessa Shaw. Directed by Michael Lehmann. Written by Robert Perez. Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Michael London. A Miramax release. Romantic comedy. Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity and language. Running time: 110 min

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