Director: Judd Apatow
Writer: Judd Apatow
Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Megan Fox
Release date: December 21st, 2012
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Running time: 133 minutes
Best part: The chemistry between Rudd and Mann.
Worst part: Its 134 min. length.
What is a defining part of life that is scary and unavoidable? Age. Age and wisdom define who we are as people. This pressing issue affects everyone in Judd Apatow’s new dramedy This is 40. The film is a coming-of-age tale in more ways than one. It’s also a funny, insightful yet slow jog toward one couple’s goals. One can’t help but notice, however, that Apatow’s comedy styling would be best suited to another format.
This story follows married couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as their lives begin to crumble. With Debbie having turned forty and Pete following suit, they contemplate where their lives have ended up. But bodily restrictions and regrets are far from their only problems. Pete’s record company is failing to gain the attention it needs to stay afloat. While Debbie is convinced one of her employees is stealing money from her clothing store. Also coming to a head are problems with their kids Sadie and Charlotte (Maude and Iris Apatow), as both adjust to their bickering parents and their own inconsistencies. It’s up to Pete and Debbie to band together, before their afflicting issues cripple their marriage.
Apatow clearly loves his own life. Putting too much of himself into each film, all four of his theatrical creations can be seen as pieces of a much greater puzzle. His breakout smash hit The 40-Year old Virgin discuses the ‘first time’ and the importance of adolescence. Knocked Up, the pseudo-precursor to This is 40, chronicles the nervousness that comes with having a child. Funny People is based on the acceptance of death. While This is 40 is about hitting the wall. The norms of society are examined with close scrutiny. Instead of depicting unrealistically happy people conflicted by implausible issues, Apatow’s illustration of marriage and parenthood is smart and appropriately realistic for a Hollywood Romantic-comedy. Pete and Debbie are basically an ideal 1990’s couple forced to deal with the issues of a new century. Feeling out of place and unable to help, their constant arguing grounds this couple in a realistic fashion. They angrily discuss everyday issues such as kids, bullying, friends, parents and, most importantly, money. Apatow’s involvement, to a certain extent, brings out the uncomfortable and jarring elements of this on-screen relationship. With Rudd essentially playing Apatow’s avatar, the involvement of Mann (Apatow’s real-life wife) and their kids unnecessarily hits too close to home. Writer/directors that Apatow has obviously taken notes from could’ve avoided subjectivity to convey a clearer message and funnier film-going experience. James L. Brooks and Nancy Meyers would’ve improved the material at hand and injected a greater amount of wit into proceedings (watch Brooks’ Spanglish for a strong example).
“We had sex the other night. You should give me some credit for that.” (Pete (Paul Rudd), This is 40).
Apatow’s effect on Hollywood comedy in the past few years has been exponential. He has resurrected careers and reinvigorated gross-out humour. Here, he has proven just how important he still is. With a Robert Altman-esque love of cameos and a refreshing grasp on reality, he has created an ideal night out for family and friends. He has, however, repeated his biggest mistake in stretching an identifiable story out to an excessive run-time. His involvement in TV, including hit shows such as Freaks and Geeks and Girls, has affected his grasp on concise cinematic storytelling. While avoiding Funny People‘s monotonous pace and unessential revelations, he is still unable to focus on the most important parts of his own material. Subplots are picked up and dropped without a hint of warning or development. Important issues are also unresolved, disrupting this story’s all too vital messages about family values and the joys of life. The comedic tone changes abruptly throughout. Flipping instantaneously from heartening moments to situational comedic hijinks, Apatow’s choices seem to be muddled here. Having said that, many characters are carried by fun performances. Rudd and Mann depict the same loving yet sour relationship they achieved as the same couple from Knocked up. They are two of the most likeable actors in Hollywood, and, despite their coarse attitudes here, its still easy to see why.
This is 40 can be summed up in one scene. Debbie’s gynaecological exam leads to everyone in the room trying to determine her real age. This hilarious yet frustrating game details both the sour aspects of ageing and Apatow’s love of awkward observational comedy. Its a comedy with as much wisdom, bite and tedium as life itself.