“Hey, remember that annoying couple in that Judd Apatow movie about the loser who got the hot chick pregnant? No? Well, we made a movie about them anyway.” That pretty much sums up This is 40, Judd Apatow‘s latest flick starring his rotating cast of family members (wife Leslie Mann plays opposite Paul Rudd, along with her and Apatow’s two kids, who were also in Knocked Up. You may know Maude Apatow from Twitter fame. Or you may not because you don’t follow thirteen-year-olds. Whatever).
I’d been vaguely excited about this film for a few reasons: 1) I heart Paul Rudd (especially in I Love You, Man. That’s great cinema) 2) Leslie Mann, though the definition of shrill (seriously, look it up), is consistently funny and 3) I may still be seven years away (okay, six) from 40, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel that number hovering over me like some Harry Potter ghost trying to creep me the hell out. In fact, I’m probably the target audience for this film, and it makes sense: the years between 30 and 40 feel like this intense time warp where all these huge milestones happen, both great (marriage, homes, careers, kids) and not-so-great (divorce, mortgage payments, failed careers, kids). It’s a loaded decade, and who in this age bracket wouldn’t want to watch a movie that might offer some kind of magical insight into making it awesome? We all want to watch that movie. Unfortunately, This is 40 isn’t it. Sure, it’s got some signature Apatow humor and in some places, it felt so uncomfortable and cringe-inducing that I think it really succeeded. Main characters Peter and Debbie are facing some real-world crises (he’s hiding their financial struggles from her; she’s upset about Pete’s cholesterol levels but secretly smokes) — their bodies are betraying them, their kids are betraying them, their careers are shit and they’re so resentful and unhappy, they do the only thing they can: they take it out on each other.
The only problem is that it’s difficult to sympathize with either one of them, and films with unlikable main characters are a hard sell. I do think it’s somewhat telling — about what, I’m not sure, but stay with me here — that Ethan spent most of the movie (justifiably) complaining that Leslie Mann’s character was the most annoying woman alive, and I spent it (justifiably) wishing my fantasies about Paul Rudd hadn’t just been irreparably dashed by the snarky, unkind Pete. We could each easily see Pete and Debbie resorting to typical husband/wife stereotypes, and once the credits started to roll, I reminded myself to a) let Ethan spend as much time in the bathroom as he wants and b) never get mad if he ever uses Viagra for sport.
Ethan listened to an NPR interview with Apatow that I didn’t hear because I don’t have time for scintillating radio interviews unless they happen to be on between 7:44 and 8:15am, but he told me that Apatow calls the movie somewhat autobiographical (though I sincerely hope he and Mann don’t hate each other as much as these two). Apatow is 45, so it makes sense that this film started percolating around his own 40th birthday. And while I don’t think it was a complete and total bust, it sure was depressing. Towards the end, Ethan and I were a little shellshocked as we both looked over at each other and said something to the effect of, “We’d better not be like that when we’re 40.” They key to not being like that (as learned from this film’s loud-and-clear message)? Don’t lie to each other. If you can’t afford your house, sell it. Don’t swear so much in front of your kids if you don’t want them to swear back, and don’t make goals for each other that you read off a piece of paper, ’cause let’s face it — nobody likes that. Oh, and don’t complain so much about your shitty life in your 7 million dollar house. Because that makes you sound sort of like a douche. (A Paul Rudd douche. But still).
OVERALL RATING OF THIS FILM IN MY OPINION: C. That’s probably generous. But Iris Aaptow is a cutie. She lends the film some street cred.