This is 40 is possibly the world through director Judd Apatow’s (age 45) eyes. Although its protagonists live a life that most of us will never have access to, many will recognise the perils of domesticity played out on the big screen.
Pete (Paul Rudd, 43) is due to turn 40 a week after his wife Debbie (Leslie Mann, 40 and Apatow’s real life wife), Pete owns a small record label and Debbie owns a small shop, staffed my Megan Fox, among others – THIS IS JUST LIKE MY LIFE HONESTLY WOW (ahem). Their two daughters (Iris & Maude Apatow, not 40) fight and bicker as various friends, colleagues and extended family members discuss parenthood, marriage and the inevitable slog through to death. Or at least that’s how the first 45 minutes is played out.
Or is there more to this movie? It’s obvious that Apatow is keen to lay bare the thorny truth of married life for us all to jeer at. Which I may have been doing when not seething at the audacity of characters who each drive an SUV to a personal trainer, then hiring catering for a big shindig…before complaining about money. Seriously, these morons misplace nearly $100,000 during the film, this isn’t 40 – This Is Stupid. To say that the movie is unrealistic would be trite, viewers love seeing high rollers come apart at the seams, yet calling a film This Is 40 assumes that all viewers will sympathise with these LA stereotypes. This is My 40 would be a more apt title.
However, I have to hand it to the cast and crew. It’s long but This Is 40 has glimpses of humour, poignancy and philosophy. At times it’s black-humoured familial spats cut so close to the bone, I had to look away. We see parents trying to remain individuals, husbands and wives trying to find time for each other, and parents dealing with their own parents – addressing a generation who really did screw over their young.
Guest parts from John Lithgow and Albert Brooks elevate this above usual Apatow affair – they’re both brilliant. Yet the general tone of the film is immature. Foul language, crass behaviour, childish humour, tick, tick, tick. I ask whether the nuances of marriage writ large can work with gross-out lad jokes? I almost winced with guilt when I laughed as Debbie sneakily drags her cigarette while nagging Pete to stop his cupcake diet.
Apatow does have directorial skill, interspersing stupid arguments with a fellow parent (a great part for Melissa Mccarthy, stay to watch the credits for more of her) with moments of joy between a couple together since their twenties – private laughter and solidarity in parenting, and their ongoing desire to be better people and a better team.
The usual Apatow cast are present, with excellent skits from Chris O’Dowd, Fox and Jason Segal, plus the film celebrates the LA music culture – with a guest spot from Ryan Adams. This Is 40 is as serious as Apatow is likely to get – he has succeeded in making a slummy, comic version of The Descendants. It is the reality of long term love about a generation of parents raising their kids in an iPod world.
The execution might not be to my taste, but if this film informs a lazy society of the benefits of marriage and children or succeeds as contraception, either way I’m all for it.