This is 40
Written and Directed by: Judd Apatow
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Iris Apatow, Maude Apatow, Jason Segel, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks and John Lithgow
Judd Apatow’s all grown up. Well, sort of, as evidenced by his adult comedy This is 40. Though the film bears all the signs of an Apatow production, it has a poignant undertone, and it is his most realistic endeavor to date.
40 revisits the sweetly bickering couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) who first appeared in Knocked Up, and arguably stole the show whenever they graced the screen. In 40, Pete and Debbie find themselves catapulting toward the dreaded age of forty, trying to navigate their way through the indignities that coincide with the age (mammograms, prostrate exams and hemorrhoids) as well as facing a stale marriage and the pre-teen drama inflicted by their daughters.
Debbie is horrified when she finds out Pete has taken Viagra to spice up their stagnant love life, and promptly hires a trainer (Jason Segel) to whip her body into tip-top shape. Pete faces a mid life crisis as he comes to the realization that his fledgling record company might not make it during tough economic times. That doesn’t stop his mooch of a father (Albert Brooks) from constantly hitting Pete up for cash he doesn’t have.
Debbie faces her own paternal issues as she tries to establish a relationship with her estranged father (John Lithgow), and she has to face the fact that one of her employees is stealing from her shop. Finally, daughter Sadie (Maude Apatow) is morphing into a surly electronics addicted teenager who begins to alienate her younger sister Charlotte (Iris Apatow). Juggling all these balls in the air is enough to strain any marriage, but this is typical life for forty-something couples with kids. I know. I lived it, only my marriage didn’t survive. The film hit home on more than one occasion, making it almost uncomfortable to watch.
But Apatow infuses the film with enough humor to keep it from wallowing in misery. One notable scene has Debbie and Pete carving out some time for themselves holed up in a hotel room with some marijuana. A stellar supporting cast including Segel, Lena Dunham, Charlyne Yi, Megan Fox, Chris O’Dowd, Michael Ian Black, Lithgow, Brooks and Melissa McCarthy effortlessly contributes to the funny bits.
As for the principals, Mann (Apatow’s wife and frequent muse) gives the best performance of her career. Her consternation about her marriage and approaching age is heartfelt, and lays bare a sweet vulnerability we haven’t seen from her before, but she quickly transforms into a lioness protecting her cub when Sadie experiences some bullying issues at school. Rudd is Rudd. He’s affable as always, sporting a floppy hairdo far too young for his age, but it appropriately demonstrates Pete’s stubborn refusal to let go of his youth. The Apatow daughters are very natural and comfortable on screen; they lack the self-awareness that makes so many child-actors annoying.
Apatow has succeeded in bringing us a tale of the modern family, depicting all the messy implications of parents remarrying and bringing all the baggage from their new spouses and offspring into their original families. It’s an interesting (though overlong) look at an imperfect multi-generational family, and Debbie and Pete are a couple you can’t help but cheer for.
As Apatow himself ages and brings an autobiographical component to his films, his projects take on a maturity that separates them from his earlier projects, and This is 40 is evidence of that maturity. This is real life and it suits Apatow well. – Shannon