I wanted to like This is 40 more than I did. I’d heard positive reviews from friends and heard Judd Apatow give a great interview on Jesse’s Bullseye (embeded below).
The thing I heard in many reviews was how this comedy struck a common thread with people turning 40, and as a guy that is barely a couple months past that milestone, I looked forward to a personal and brilliantly funny comedy about the things I’ve had to deal with in the past year.
Opening night of this film I saw a friend tweet about how This is 40 was basically just “rich white people problems” and I thought that was a cynical take until I watched it. Ultimately, I think this was the downfall of the film. Sure, the script does feel very personal and I’d say it’s a safe bet that three quarters of what happens on screen happened in Apatow’s real life, but the film lost me by not being the common-man-turns-40 comedy I was expecting it to be.
They live in Santa Monica, one of the most posh neighborhoods in West LA. Judging from the minimum of 3 bedrooms and the huge backyard I’d say their house is worth around $2mil. Rudd’s character drives a $80k 7-series BMW and Leslie Mann’s (Apatow’s real-life wife) character is in a $50k Lexus. Rudd runs his own record label, and Mann runs a clothing storefront, both in Santa Monica (where rents would be astronomical). They both have enough time and flexibility to exercise for an hour or two each morning and their only obligation seems to be getting up early enough to drop the kids off at school before exercising and eventually showing up to their workplace. One of the core conflicts in the movie is they are having money problems, but when you look at their lives, that conflict felt weak given their amazing circumstances.
They also lie constantly, a personal pet peeve that made it hard for me to love the main characters or root for them. I have no patience for dishonestly in my personal life and one of the worst scenes in the film was one where the parents both flat out lie to Melissa McCarthy, whose character gets so frustrated she flips out and looks like the crazy one in a scene that ends up with everyone laughing at the stereotypical fat “hysterical” woman that left me kind of sad that a good movie had to stoop that low.
It’s not all bad, the movie is funny and cracked me up endlessly in parts and yes, that included a few scenes from my own life that went in a similar way. Judd Apatow is amazingly good at packing a comedy with honest moments from life and there are plenty in this. One of the best was when the 13 year old daughter flips out at her parents and drops the f-bomb repeatedly. It was such a perfect capturing of the moment where you are thirteen and have hormones coursing through your body and you’re completely frustrated by a lack of control in how the world is going at that age and you can’t do anything but rage into the abyss about how everything sucks. There were lots more moments that rang both funny and poignant: dad sitting on the toilet for 30min playing iPad games, siblings hating each other and making up later, dad farting in bed while discussing their lack of sex life, etc. Still, in the end, it fell flat of being as good as the title “the sequel to Knocked Up” lead it to be.
Weird stuff I couldn’t help but notice: Almost all the street scenes are shot on a single stretch of San Vincente Boulevard in Santa Monica. They ride bikes down it, drive their cars down it, and work out in the median near the end. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apatow lives nearby, but it gave the film a funny 70s TV show vibe by constantly filming on the same stretch. Judd Apatow’s wife plays the wife in the film, but the two kids are also their real two kids (and they do a great job). Are they both actors or did Apatow cast his family to save money/time and get a good chemistry going? Is it weird to act with your family when you have to act like jerks to each other? Do the kids get paid by the studio in a trust fund that could pay for their college someday? Was that Apatow’s actual house used in production? Were those his personal cars? I have a funny feeling they might have been.