Getting old. It’ll happen to us all at some point or other. But what about that in-between period… and hitting 40? It’s a time when you sit back and re-evaluate your life. Did you honestly think you’d be with him / her / alone? How about those kids or lack thereof? We’re always filled with ambition and drive when we’re young: so many hopes, so many dreams. But unfortunately, not all of them are realised for every one of us. That’s where This Is 40 steps in… so you’ve turned 40, you’re married and have two kids… is this it? Is it the bliss you expected back when you were 22?
This Is 40 is the “spiritual successor” to Judd Apatow‘s Knocked Up. This time however, instead of focusing on the pregnancy part of a relationship, it hones in on that tipping point: a good few years into a relationship, when you’ve planted your roots, have a couple of kids, and have to contend with the trials and tribulations of real life. The film focuses in on the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) and their two kids, Sadie and Charlotte (Maude & Iris Apatow, respectively), as Pete and Debbie approach their respective 40th birthdays. But all isn’t well in the household. The arrival of the big 4-0 scares Debbie and really highlights all the short-givings they have in their relationship.
Now, This Is 40 bills itself as a romantic comedy. It’s from Judd Apatow and was released on Valentine’s Day in the UK so all indications would point to yes, it’s a rom-com. But this film has a very serious undertone to it and it’s not a laugh-a-minute ride to the end. This isn’t Superbad. Now, I’m not nearing 40, in fact I won’t see that until the mid-2020’s, but I can still relate to all of their issues. If anything, this film succeeds at capturing a lot of the insecurities many of us has about life more than it succeeds at making us laugh about them. That’s not to say the film’s not funny and carrying some genuinely humorous moments, but you can’t get around the issues it raises.
I’m a fan of Paul Rudd. Some aren’t, but I am. And I thought he really played Pete with passion here. It wasn’t his normal “deadpan, aloof, cool man” performance. I’ve no doubts that Judd Apatow wrote the part for Rudd in particular, because it all just blends so seamlessly – he and the character are one. The reason the performance works is because of the counterbalance of Leslie Mann as Debbie. She too really brings the goods – maybe a little too much cheer and not enough sorrow, but she really conveys the emotions to the audience. The fact that I left the screening feeling somewhat saddened and deeply pessimistic about the future really shows that something worked here. I really believe it’s a combination of the protagonists’ writing and acting.
But then again, this isn’t the perfect movie. For a start, I just felt that it’s run time was just a bit too long. The film felt a bit bloated with so many other sub-plots woven into it. Whilst I’m glad they were there to add complexity to the film, some of them could have probably been left on the cutting room floor, or at least parts of them should have. After all, we all needed a bikini scene AND a bra and panties scene for Megan Fox didn’t we? Both of those certainly had to be in the final film.
So, who is this film for? I don’t know if I’d recommend it to budding couples or those that are newly heartbroken as it’ll just make you despair for your own life and all the trials that are flying your way in the coming decades. Younger audiences won’t get the resonance of what’s going on on-screen and won’t feel those emotions. This film is probably best viewed by those in those “This Is 40” style relationships, or those who’ve battled through it. Actually, especially the latter group, as you’re surely the ones that won’t leave the screening feeling glum, like The Phage. I’m not sure what I was truly expecting from This Is 40, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this strange sense of sorrow after I left…
This Is 40 is an interesting take on a “romantic comedy”. Sure, it has the romance and it has the comedy, but both aren’t always at the forefronf of your mind. Be especially wary if you plan on taking your new boy / girlfriend to this. Similarly, if you’re newly single, and in your 20’s or 30’s, I’d avoid this too, as it’ll probably make you question your life. Then again, maybe you’re one of those carefree singletons and this movie will leave you feeling empowered that you’re not going to be shackled down, or as Jason Segel‘s character calls it, “doing a Clooney“.
This film, much like life, can throw a lot of curveballs at you over its run time. But also just like life, sometimes you need to sit through these curveballs and stay par for the course, because ultimately there’s something pretty darn good here. It may not be the “bliss” you were expecting when you bought your ticket (to the film, not life… I think that had something to do with your parents having one hell of a fun night after watching a far more romantic movie), but stick with it. It’s not the picture-perfect marriage / film, but it works.