This is 40 – Review

tt1758830This is 40 – Review

Film review by FilmFellaDarren – 6.7/10

This is not a rom-com. The humour is far too acerbic and bitter to be classed as such – any romance that the central couple had, must have deserted it many moons ago.  If they were to have been a rom-com couple then their time was decades ago – this is a couple with seemingly no distance left to run. Actually they’ve already featured in a rom-com – you might recognize Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters as the peripheral figures in an earlier Judd Apatow film – that actually was a rom-com – Knocked Up. They broke away from that film to form the most unlikely and unnecessary spin-off movie ever.

So, if it isn’t a rom-com then what is it? I hear you ask.  Well, it wants to be a meaningful comedy about the woes of being in a middle age slump. The characters see themselves as past their sell by date and a lot of the dialogue sees Rudd and Mann throwing barbed insults at each other in a depiction of domestic strife that might seem familiar to anyone in a relationship past three years.  It’s a very hard film for anyone to relate to within the target demographic, due to the fact that the film is not nearly as documentary realistic and indie chic as Apatow seems to think it is, and although it more than frequently raises a titter, it’s far too glossy to gain the credibility Apatow seeks for it.

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Here’s a little more about Rudd and Mann’s characters. He’s an owner of a minor record label that specializes in resurrecting the careers of long forgotten seventies musicians. She’s a shop owner of a very fashionable female retail store. Both have hit financial difficulties and as they are approaching their 40th birthday in the same week, problems mount up putting a major strain on their relationship.

It’s not big on plot, it instead relies on the admittedly quite funny script and the hope that it can be entirely character driven by the two leads as well as a range of subplots that don’t really add up to much despite featuring a star-studded range of proven comic performers like John Lithgow; Jason Segal; Chis O Dowd, Albert Brooks and less proven comics names like Megan Fox – who isn’t particularly funny and Melissa McCarthy who isn’t funny at all.

The problem is a large number of the jokes about the pitfalls of middle age don’t work because they cast two leads so bloody glamorous they could be in a bank commercial. When Mann vehemently demands Rudd to lay off the cupcakes to halt the further development of his middle age paunch, she comes off as bang out of order since he couldn’t be in better shape. Rudd looks perpetually 29, he’s had youthful looks for decades – it’s like his features are preserved in synthetics or something. He wouldn’t look out of place gracing the cover of Men’s Health Magazine, any complaint from him about the aging process is maddening. Many jokes fall flat about Leslie Mann’s characters fear of fading youth, because even next to Megan Fox Mann looks radiant. Put someone in there who really looks like they failed the test of time and maybe it would have been much funnier.

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The second problem is that everybody is moaning about their alleged financial problems as a way of making the film contentious, yet everyone lives in a mansion, and shows no sign of pulling out the cardboard boxes to pack up their things, whilst holding the kind of jobs that will remain pipe-dreams for us real folk. All of which combines to create the same feeling in your stomach as say, watching a multi-millionaire talk forlornly about how he can only afford to keep seven of his ten houses in the current economic climate. Boo bloody hoo. It’s hard to laugh along with a film when everyone comes across as a whiney self-pitying, indulgent person with only white middle class bourgeois problems to contend with.  Perhaps in Hollywood this lot are the poor relations but with the way the world is now, these people are still King and Queen of Versailles. You feel like reaching into the screen, grabbing them all, shaking them vigorously and saying: stop bloody moaning, you could have been born in Baltimore.

The third problem is that it’s way, way too long for a comedy with very little plot. The film suffers from the same flaws as the problems accompanying the time of life the film supposedly depicts: the running time is bloated, flabby and in desperate need of a trim down. Although it is the only thing in need of a trim down, despite the complaints of the central characters, most people would sell their grandparents to afford the kind of extensive plastic surgery to get in the kind of shape Rudd and Mann are in This is 40.  This is 40? What do you really know about the woes of turning 40 Apatow?   Not my thoughts, I know as much about turning 40 as Apatow does as I’ve still got years left to go before my life begins at the big 4-0, but I can guarantee that anyone past 40 won’t be able to really relate to the so called depiction of middle age here and will complain that the film should have delved much deeper to get the substance and observational humour Apatow thinks it has.

Overall, This is 40 is at times funny, but some gags go down as well as a fart at a funeral due to some of the reasons listed above. Apatow cast his whole family in the film in a bid to get a sense of naturalness, Mann is his wife and his children pop up to provide the funniest performances in the film, but it all feels annoyingly glossy and somewhat phoney.

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About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

2 Responses to This is 40 – Review

  1. Darren Tosh says:

    As Judd Apatow himself tweeted to someone who also could not “relate” to the idea that people who aren’t in the poor house can have problems: “Do you relate to Hobbits?”
    A boutique record company and a boutique clothing store are very shaky ground financially, and you’d have thought that after the last recession people would know by now that unless you have Mitt Romney type wealth, any of us at any given time are inches away from financial catastrophe. It’s all relative, whether you have two cars and a nice big house or more modest arrangements, financial well-being is on a knife edge and the pressures running small businesses or just having a job that could vapourize at any moment are mighty. And hitting 40 doesn’t help, no matter how good you look. And hey, this film is set in LA, duh…
    All these elements in the movie are entirely credible. Pity more people did not have a basic grasp of current reality before they saw it, then they might be able to view it without these outdated prejudices.

  2. Filmfella Darren says:

    Thanks for your comment Darren Tosh – by the way I am hoping that is a real name and not a description of what you think I write. I’ve been off the grid for a while so I have only just seen your comment. Judd Apatow’s comment as stated by you brought a broad smile to my face as it is so easy to challenge. ‘Do you relate to hobbits he says?’ Absolutely I say. In fact, I’d go as far as saying there is nothing easier to relate to than a hobbit. Their massive feet aside, the humble desires of hobbits are really what everyone really wants: to be free in green and pleasant surroundings, have family friends and a community around them, plentiful supplies of food and beer, fun and relaxation all day. They are not power hungry, they have no desire to better their fellow hobbit, they just want to live contented lives. If we all took a leaf out of a hobbits book, we’d all be a lot happier. Hobbits live in shires – as a Brit I know plenty of shires: there is Lancashire Derbyshire; Shropshire to name just three – the whole UK is made up of shires as the Lord of the Rings is really just a book about how the beautiful British countryside was raped by the industrial ‘revolution’. To bring it back to This is 40, I just felt there was something patronizing about this rom-com trying to relate to real issues as it just seemed out of touch, but fair enough, perhaps my criticisms of the film can be stretched to cover all of Hollywood. Yes, Hollywood sells us glossy lifestyles all the time and we lap it up, but this film was trying to reach out and attempt to relate to people and I for one took issues with a glossy Hollywood comedy trying to pretend it is something more meaty and important. You do make some interesting points about the idea of the Middle Class being pulled into the same struggles that have long faced the poor people and anyone who knows me could vouch for the fact that I am constantly going on about the problems facing all of us in this economy – so to say that I am out of touch is something I have to take issue with..

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