The Virginity Hit
September 24, 2010
Your enjoyment of The Virginity Hit may well be dictated by how easily the teenage version of obscenities rolls off your back. I don’t, as a rule, oppose vulgarity; I love a good, creative obscenity-fest as much as anyone. (Big, big fan of Deadwood, right here.) But teenage vulgarity is not the same as regular vulgarity: it really is just the thudding repetition of the Seven Dirty Words (and some cousins) over, and over, and over again. It is artless, and a little numbing.
I suspect that’s how many people will describe The Virginity Hit’s filming technique, too. It’s a faux-documentary filmed in digital, made to look and play like a series of YouTube videos posted by a group of four teenage boys who, like so many of our generation, have elected for a life of constant self-surveillance. Having a frequently-updated Twitter account and a largish back catalogue of audio and video tapes me and my friends filmed throughout our adolescence, I understand the impulse.
I didn’t find this technique as cloying and unpleasant as I thought I would. In fact, under the steady hands of director-writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland, the unpolished YouTube look is the best thing The Virginity Hit has going for it… even if it’s ultimately no less fabricated than standard feature filmmaking. Within minutes, I found myself utterly disarmed and able to engage with these characters in a way you rarely experience with subject matter like this.
That’s because on paper The Virginity Hit is exactly what it sounds like: a raunchy teen sex comedy about a bunch of guys (well, one guy this time) trying really damn hard to lose his virginity. Hijinx inevitably ensue, family drama rears its head, and all the boys—authentically schlubby and not terribly attractive—hang out with girls who are out of their league by several orders of magnitude. You have seen this many, many times before.
But you have not seen it presented this way. Filmed straight, that material is as old as the hills and not easy to relate to. Funny, sure; authentic human experience, no. The Virginity Hit hews much closer to real life simply due to its lack of pretension. Botko and Gurland have made artifice feel completely natural, and that is genuinely something.
But beyond that, The Virginity Hit mostly stalls. It isn’t terribly funny; mostly it’s just the repetition of genital names that pass for punch lines, and while that’s pretty much how teenage boys talk, it doesn’t make for great or engaging cinema. Its drama is actually its strength, and there are moments of greatness sprinkled throughout. The scenes between the lead, Matt (Matt Bennett) and his father are surprisingly raw. The scenes where Matt encounters his favorite porn star and her boyfriend would make a fine short film on their own.
But it isn’t funny and it doesn’t stick with you, and those two things are fatal to the enjoyment of any movie. As a comedy, The Virginity Hit fails. As an experiment in format, it’s a qualified success. Botko and Gurland have taken the “found footage” phenomenon of horror movies like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity and demonstrated it can be used effectively in drama and comedy. Though I cannot recommend their movie, there’s something to be said for the accomplishment.