Previously on The SF Appeal, my predecessor and esteemed sex-columnist, Christine took on the burden of evaluating our fair city’s performance in TV and Film. In this column we’ll be again providing weekly dissections of the Fog City’s cameos in recent (or possibly not very recent) media. Like all the media these days, we begin with a remake and a nod to Christine’s analysis of the seminal (or maybe semen-al?) teen sex romp: 40 Days and 40 Nights.

In case you were actually of working age and too busy getting laid off from your cushy Internet job in 2002 to notice, 40 Days and 40 Nights was a love story set in the hedonistic and care-free days of the dot-com era when San Francisco was basically a gold rush town filled with men who mined the Valley for dollars and then spent it on prostitutes who lingered around their converted warehouse offices while the men looked at porn on the Internet. From what I understand this is a totally accurate depiction of San Francisco in the age of Pets.com.

Anyway, our protagonist – a young dreamboat named Josh “Matt Sullivan” Hartnett – really can’t get over his ex-girlfriend Nicole because one time she took him to Marin a scenic overlook in the Presidio to make a really shaky home video of the two of them standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and making out while wearing really cool clothes like khakis with cargo pockets and porkpie hats. I guess director Michael Lehmann, a San Francisco native himself, didn’t think this would offend the audience because when this movie came out in 2002 we had already been subjected to 10 years of The Real World, so fuzzy, shaky footage was basically the norm and who knew that porkpie hats would ever go out of style?

Anyway, Matt lives with his roommate-buddy-coworker Ryan, a man-boy in possession of sideburns that would make many a Dolores Parkster jealous. Ryan is also a fiendish poonhound, which we know because the pre-breakup scene includes some Sony Handicam footage of Ryan trawling Haight Street, hitting on anything that walks by. That’s also how you know this was a very prosperous time for San Francisco because not a single person is sitting/lying on Haight Street. They also look to be recently-showered.

Ryan is really a softie at heart though, because he’s genuinely concerned about the fact that Matt can’t have sex without imagining a gaping black hole opening up over his bed. (That’s not an earthquake, Matt, that’s just your inability to deal with your emotions.) Matt’s concerned too, so he consults his brother in the confessional booth at St. Joseph’s where he gets the inspiration to give up “all sex and sex-like acts” for Lent from a wise old priest who is also giving up something: “Madelines dipped in Starbuck’s Mocha.” Fair trade, Padre!

So the rest of the film is Matt’s struggle to navigate the sexy sexy streets of San Francisco without thinking too hard about the ladyfolk, who are everywhere and very much dressed like sexy secretaries and candy ravers. Only confusing things for Matt’s penis is the online betting pool that his co-workers, horny males the lot of them, have set up so people from all over the world can bet on which day Matt will blow it on his vow of celibacy. This, of course, means all his inexplicably attractive female coworkers suddenly want to have sex with him.

Now, the connoisseurs in the audience will recognize that at the heart of every teen sex comedy lies a rehashed Shakespearean tragedy with more dick jokes. So, enter the pixie-cut Shannyn “Erica” Sossamon, who meets Matt at what he incorrectly assumed was a laundromat exclusively for elderly Chinese and with whom he would very much like to have sex (Erica, not the Chinese). Of course, Erica works at CyberNanny where she complains about having to look at blowjobs on the Internet all day, and the betting pool site is sponsored by a porn site, which in turn is “PROTECTED BY CYBERNANNY.” If that’s not a tale of two star-crossed lovers, I don’t know what is:

It actually makes perfect sense that in 2001, Mercutio would be played by a flamboyant, flash-animated website.

Ultimately the plot isn’t even important because, duh, Matt and Erica get together in the end despite zero character development and the fact that Matt’s ex basically rapes him after he handcuffs himself to his headboard on night 39. (Good idea, Matt.) The couple even got nominated for the Teen Choice Award for “Choice Chemistry” before losing out to Mandy Moore and whoever else was in A Walk to Remember. Enough about them though, because hey look, there’s everyone’s favorite: the N-Judah!

Aside from a couple bland shots of such a beautiful city, what the premise of the film ultimately provides is a hilarious and dated view of an era in San Francisco history that barely lasted 5 years. In fact, if we’re trusting wikipedia on this one (and why wouldn’t we?) the dot-com bubble had burst before this movie even started shooting. Which means this movie probably has some of the shortest-term anachronisms in the history of film. Take this billboard, for instance:

First of all, the “DIE DOTCOM SCUM” tag. What is this? Is this authentic? Was this written in the script? The tagline on the original billboard for beenz.com: “did you get any lately?” fits the movie so well, but the rest of the movie aggrandizes the dot-com lifestyle so much that I sincerely doubt they would actively insert that level of social commentary. Besides, that tag is not exactly unheard of around these parts. I need some DVD commentary or something because this is blowing my mind.

Also, while we’re at it – remember beenz.com? I didn’t either, but as a refresher it had the lofty goal of taking on the world’s major currencies to become “the web’s currency”. Started in 1998 and backed by Oracle CEO/Silicon Valley Godfather Larry Ellison (who really should have known that it is illegal in most countries to print your own money) it was sold off for scrap by 2001 and now exists as nothing more than a parked domain. Somewhere between shooting this movie and it’s release in 2002, an entire global company had collapsed.

Of course, you can’t have a film set in San Francisco without a couple shots on public transit. Luckily for us, a major plot point in this movie involves actually going on a date on Muni, because of how that is not sexy at all and there is very little danger that date leading to sex. “I’ll meet you at Justin Herman and we’ll ride until we end up at at the bus corral at Presidio and Euclid.” – That’s the whole date Matt has planned. Cue the Semisonic music and fire up the rear projection screen, we’re gonna have a Muni montage!

So, besides a relatively mundane ride on the bus, we get some great background on Erica’s dating history. What you’re saying, Erica, is that you’ve actually dated every homeless person on the San Francisco Municipal Railway? I can tell you’re gonna be a real winner. I didn’t even have to look at your roommate, Fraggle Gyllenhaal:

And speaking of terrible haircuts, one-half of Pete & Pete makes an appearance as the “cool bike messenger who delivers bagels” and check out his hip new hardware:

We could spend all day talking about how antiquated all the technology in the film is (the office is exclusively stocked with Mac Cubes), but what really seems off-base is the movie’s half-baked “sluts are the new feminists” message. The women in this dystopian San Francisco wield all the power in their push-up bras and Abercrombie pleated skirts. The men are merely their playthings. Of course, this is thrown off course by the fact that Matt won’t have sex with any of these ladies even though they are literally throwing themselves at him. Take these two ladies who offer a threesome in the office storeroom:

The problem with all this (beside the fact that Matt has become the sheepish little manboy that every San Francisco woman loathes) is that this movie still features more blatantly objectified boobs than your average episode of True Blood (several of which Lehmann has directed, natch). At one point, during the height of his boner-stupor, when his judgment is no doubt severely clouded by the DNA samples accumulating in his central nervous system, Matt is literally objectifying and visually undressing every woman he sees on the street. A stop for coffee at Cafe Trieste looks like a night out at Mitchell Brothers, for example. I suppose this is only natural, but the real problem is we are meant to believe none of this is Matt’s fault. He’s a martyr thrown into the San Francisco lion(ess)’s den.

Although, I doubt any of that was of real concern to the millions of teenagers sitting in their midwestern homes, lying to their parents that the movie was rated PG-13. To those kids, San Francisco probably looked like a big R-Rated playground where the fantasies from American Pie 2 became reality and nobody would read your AOL chats over your shoulder. And in that way, as much as we’ll hate to admit it, San Francisco is at least partially responsible for the continued corruption of the American Youth. But, you know, no more than Porky’s was.

Got a movie or TV show that’s shot (or at least set) in San Francisco that you want to suggest? We’ll be here every week, so drop us an email.

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  • Brock Keeling

    Apple Newton!!!EWdfcvrg reu@#$n bt$sktrbw%$#rhnsr

  • Anna Gazdowicz

    Awesome.

  • Jackson West

    Isn’t that the Potrero bus yard? HOLLYWOOD LIES!

    By the way, Josh Hartnett was in another dot-com period piece, August, set in New York circa 2001 and produced in 2008 (!):

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0470679/

    Just in case you can’t get enough Josh Hartnett and/or dot-com period pieces.

  • It’s shot looking East from Masonic. Through YouTube’s fuzziness you can just make out the Transamerica slightly left of the center. The Booker T. Washington building on Presidio would be the big building with all the trees in front in the foreground. Research!

  • the_minimalist_route

    Setting a crappy movie in SF is like adding a celeb cameo: “Hey, this movie’s not very good but if we add some shots of Coit Tower, people may find it charming.”

  • Greg Dewar

    this is one of my favorite subjects to follow, and I’d never seen this movie (gosh I wonder why?) and it’s cool to see Crepes on Cole and a Muni “date” and now I don’t have to actually SEE this thing on Netflix.

    good job, dude. If you want to have some real fun, check out “The Lineup”. I posted some screenshots on Flickr a while back – it was both a tv show AND a 1958 movie…you’ll dig it.

  • Dain Fitzgerald

    Cherish with Robin Tunney from 2002. Kind of a weird film, and not in a good way imho:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0298798/

  • Kate Horton

    Crepes on Cole! Well done, Andrew.

  • dk

    Having watched Pearl Harbor less than a week ago (judge if you must!), I can confirm–Josh is also twitchy in WWII period pieces.

    Also, I know it doesn’t specifically show love (or hate) for your city, but I can’t believe there’s no mention of the orchid sex scene. Still, already looking forward to next week’s…