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.
Yeah I wondered why they drove luxury cars. On Fresh Air, Apatow talked about filming in his neighborhood as one way he could stay close to home, and you could argue that their giant beautiful house made for a prettier setting. This is a problem in a lot of TV shows and movies, characters who live in a house/apartment they could never afford in a million years (like in “Friends”). I wondered if it was just a matter of the characters living above their means as people sometimes do. But it could be that Apatow is grossly out of touch with the everyman.
I laughed so much at their very low stakes problems, I really enjoyed it. But you’re right, their tony surroundings are distracting and totally unnecessary.
Yeah, I have a running joke with my wife how pretty much every movie and TV show we watch features “regular” people in places worth at least a million dollars and how ridiculous it usually looks.
But yeah, their money problems seemed so silly given their crazy lifestyle, I guess the only good joke in it about that was Graham Parker saying “you need to have a small nut” but overall I thought they were only semi-likeable jerks that were stupid with money.
“semi-likeable jerks that were stupid with money”
That’s why it was so realistic! That’s me!
Agreed on your comments though.
Wonderful review with pretty much underscores my dislike for what constitutes comedy films now. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World wasn’t well liked, but at least it’s an occasions when characters all seemed to live in shitty apartments and have horrible jobs like the rest of us.
To be fair to Friends, they, as was so often the case, made fun of the incongruities, and justified Monica’s apartment by explaining some way in it was a rent controlled sub-let and rather like Spaced, I think there was an episode about her trying to hide the fact from someone important.
You perfectly nailed all of my problems with the movie. It was very funny, but not at all relatable.
I thought the whole movie was a humblebrag for Apatow to show off his wife. P L E A S E… She is gorgeous is in every shot. Blonde, skinny, hot, beautiful, with an unaccomplished sense entitlement.
Apatow himself said he could not believe she was married to a geek like him… Ah note to Apatow, she is only married to you because you are a rich, successful, movie director… If you were in charge of food services on the set, she would love you as she does all of humanity, but if you asked her out she would smile sweetly while containing her ‘Ewwww’ face for the conversation with her agent, who would quietly make your contract and you disapppear.
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