With no apology to the late F. Scott Fitzgerald for altering his line, those Hollywood folks are different from you and me. Hardly a revelation, I know, but the latest evidence comes in the form of Judd Apatow’s This is 40. I guess that short title looks better on a poster than This is 40 If You Own a Record Label and Clothing Store in Los Angeles.
Apatow took two supporting characters from his 2007 hit Knocked Up and gave them their own storyline for this film. His wife Leslie Mann (Debbie) and their daughters Iris and Maude (Charlotte and Sadie) form three-quarters of the fictional family at the heart of the piece; Paul Rudd (Pete) plays the husband and father completing the set.
We’re led through mid-life crisis-land in LA as both mark (or in her case try not to mark) 40 years on the planet. The label Pete runs is facing eminent financial ruin; the clothing store Debbie operates is missing $12,000, likely purloined by one of the employees (Megan Fox and Charlyne Yi).
Both also have daddy issues: Pete’s father (played by Albert Brooks) is a moocher who’s remarried with young triplets while Debbie’s dad (John Lithgow) has a second family too and sees his daughter about once a decade. Pete and Debbie are not attracted to each other as they once were, they don’t listen to one another and they’re often combative in conversations.
Sounds like time for some marriage counseling, right? Wrong, because this is a movie where somehow these gaping fault lines will close by movie’s end. But even though these two are living in a home that few in this country could afford and zipping around town in a Lexus and BMW, we still like this self-centered pair and their stereotypical kids (the younger one is cute, the older one is angry – because children obviously have no other attributes).
Why? Well, there is a goofy sweetness about the way Mann and Rudd play their characters, despite some blow-a-fuse moments involving a young man and his mother (Melissa McCarthy in a cameo). And Apatow does throw in enough generalized dysfunction and sentiment for us to spot something of ourselves. Even the crude humor and adult language (among the reasons given by the Motion Picture Association of America for mystifyingly slapping an R rating on this picture) deployed from time to time are apparently attempts to make us feel we’re basically watching average Janes and Joes, though much of it does little to move the story along.
At nearly two-and-a-quarter hours This is 40 ambles along at a leisurely clip; it could have told its story in about thirty less minutes, but there are enough laughs and decent acting to keep the film from getting boring. Brooks is the most engaging to watch, although Jason Segel milks his self-absorbed fitness trainer/guru for all he’s worth and Chris O’Dowd adds another bemused everyman to his acting collection as one of Pete’s long-suffering employees.
This is 40 is not an awful film, though it’s still somewhat out of touch. Many will likely wish they had at least some of the problems this privileged couple and their circle deal with in the movie; of course, we all can wish them well, even if their Tinseltown lives bear only passing resemblance to our own.
This is 40 (www.thisis40movie.com) opens today (Dec. 21) in wide release nationally. For locations and show times in the greater Nashville area check the websites of Regal Cinemas (www.regmovies.com), Carmike Cinemas (www.carmike.com) and Malco Theatres (www.malco.com). Rated R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material, 134 min. Written and directed by Judd Apatow. Starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Charlyne Yi, Jason Segel, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy and Lena Dunham.
*Photos by Suzanne Hanover courtesy Universal Pictures.