This is 40
I’m behind the curve on this one but with a child now I never see movies in the theater so I’m catching up.
This is 40 is the sort of sequel to Knocked Up, where Seth Rogan, played Ben, who impregnates a one night stand, Alison, played by Katherine Heigl. Neither of those characters are found in Apatow’s new movie, only the 4th he’s directed, instead we are given Pete, played by the always affable Paul Rudd, and his wife Debbie, the razor sharp Leslie Mann, sister and brother in law of the Heigl character in Knocked Up. There is no real plot to speak of in the move but more a series of circumstances that force this couple, now turning 40, to come to terms with a lack of basic honesty in their relationship. Pete, is the owner of a floundering record label and is having a hard time admitting to his wife that the money is running out. He has signed Graham Parker, the British pop singer, in hopes of creating a resurgence of his music, pouring a ton of money into him, only to find that no one seems to care, oh and he loans money to his father, Albert Brooks, so much, that his accountant warns him he can’t afford that and his house. Debbie owns a store that sells clothes to, well I’m not sure who, it’s one of those boutique stores, the kind that you are never really sure how they stay open. As the money runs out and their kids grow up they become more stressed and begin to loose faith in each other and in their marriage. This is of course all compounded by the subject of the title, as both Pete and Debbie, are turning 40.
I like almost all of Judd Apatow‘s movies, some more than others, but I enjoy them all. No matter the subject, at the center they are about people who are trying to find a way to be better and want the best for people around them. This is no exception, although, out of all of the characters Pete and Debbie might be the hardest for me to like. I turned 40 this year and became a father this year. That being said I am a rather penny pinching apartment dweller, not the upper middle class (If that’s what they are) types that Pete and Debbie are so I watched the movie like I was watching a kind of porn. As I watched I became very aware that I wanted what I saw. Mainly the stuff. The house, the cars, the trip to Laguna they take without their kids. We, at present, have a hard time affording baby sitter. I say all this not because I resent the movie, but simply to note that I viewed the movie with a different kind of eyes. Also, I am white. I am a white man and what was on screen is the world of a white man. It’s both a culture I know a lot about and one that is empty of substance. I think Apatow knows that too, as the characters are miserable. All of them are striving for something beyond their grasp financially, to achieve, or prove something, to either another person or a larger organization. In the end it is not that struggle that brings them back together, yes that happens, but the reality that they have nothing the means as much as each other and without that what else is there. As you expect it’s all very sweet and ties up in a nice uplifting bow. Now that Apatow is helping to produce HBO’s show Girls I see that he has more balance to what he is capable of in terms of finding the reality in a situation. I thought the second season of Girls was fantastic, diving into a reality that was much more difficult to explore and nuanced, than the first season. This is of course due mostly to Lena Dunham, who also appears in, This is 40, but who has said that Apatow has been a wonderful creative partner for her. In his next movie, I would love to see a little more of that. A little more struggle. A little more grit about a different part of the world. That being said, there is nothing wrong with writing what you know, rich, poor, black or white, it’s the honesty that matters, and on that, I always feel Apatow delivers.