There’s a simple but sweet metaphor at the center of Barry Munday, and it’s a metaphor worth exploring: Fatherhood, in a way, is akin to losing one’s sexuality, but in the process, gaining one’s manhood. Patrick Wilson plays Barry Munday in Chris D’Arienzo’s directorial debut. He’s a low-level Michael Scott, typical of a lot of cubicle cads in attempting to TGIF his way into a ladies drawers by way of margaritas from suburban chain restaurants. In other words, he’s a fucking tool. One weekend, however, a teenager (Mae Whitman) attempts to seduce him in a theater; her father walks in; and six hours later, Barry Munday wakes up in a hospital with no testicles and no memory of the trauma.
What he also doesn’t have a memory of is conceiving a child with the homely Ginger (Judy Greer) during a one-night stand a few months prior. He’s alerted to the pregnancy when he receives a letter from Ginger’s lawyer demanding that Barry take responsibility. Ball-less and stripped of his carnal desires, Barry eagerly enters the situation realizing that it’s his only means of continuing his familial line. It’s the bitchy and unappreciated Ginger who’s reluctant. Weighed by the guilt of losing her virginity to a “shit eater,” Ginger takes her anger out on Barry, lashing out at his intentions, suspecting only the worse motives. Matters are made worse by Ginger’s wealthy and judgmental parents (Cybil Shepard and Malcolm McDowell) — who believe he forced himself upon her — and Ginger’s slutty sister (Chloe Sevigny), who attempts to force herself on Barry (Barry’s loss of testicles has only stripped him of his lust; it has not, apparently, rid him of his sexual ability. He can still have a “dry orgasm.”) Like Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, but with considerably less pot and considerably more awkward charm, Barry approaches impending fatherhood with determination. He bones up on pregnancy literature and attempts to win over the unappealing Ginger, who thwarts his earnestness with insults and sarcasm.
Patrick Wilson is almost unrecognizable in the role, obscured by shitty facial hair and a posture borne out of fake bravado. Greer is perfect, too; there’s neither a trace of her best-friend cuteness in studio comedies or her sexually malnourished character from “Arrested Development.” She is a shrew, but only as a self-defense mechanism — it’s a means to disguise her insecurities about being “an ugly bitch.” There’s also a cameo a minute in Barry Munday, and they’re all well placed: Christopher McDonald and Kyle Gass play members of a deformed genitalia support group. Billy Dee Williams is Barry’s boss; Miss Pyle is an ex-girlfriend; and even Colin Hanks has a brief appearance as the lead in an air guitar band (the comedic high point of the movie).
Barry Munday is an unusually off-beat romantic comedy. There are no grand speeches or absurd romantic gestures or any of the stuff typical of studio rom-coms. There are neither any pixie girls or strange jobs, as typical of indie romantic comedies. It is neither quirky nor whimsical. There are no painfully contrived situations. Or boundless leaps of relationship logic. But it is sweet. It’s stirring. It’s funny. It’s heartwarming. And it’s lovely. It’s not the comedy you’d think it is. It’s less about losing one’s sexuality, and more about embracing parenthood. It’s about the epiphany of becoming a parent. And it’s about finding yourself after you’ve lost your nuts.
It’s also a great fucking film.
This review was originally published during the SXSW film festival, but it is being republished, as the movie is set to open in limited release tomorrow. It is also available on Video on Demand.