This is 40 (2012)
An R rated Judd Apatow entry. I mean, get ready for all of the explicit content you can handle under the umbrella of a cheery disposition. It's got so much cursing. Adults cursing, kids cursing. Old people curse in it. I mean, old people are adults, but if that's your hot button, they curse. Also, there's more than a little bit of casual nudity, sometimes in a sexual context, sometimes not. There's some pretty mild violence and blood. None of it is done with malice or with the intention of being erotic, but you can't say it isn't there either. R.
DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow
Yeah, I like this movie. I don't know why I'm instantly apologizing. I like Judd Apatow a lot. I think he's a funny dude. Would I ever want to watch this movie with my parents or my in-laws? Golly, no. No. Forever no. When my wife was in the hospital giving birth to our first born, we watched The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Do you understand how awkward that was? We were constantly lowering the volume and doing side-eye to the hallway. Judd Apatow hits a sweet spot with my wife and me. It's crass and perhaps more than we should be okay with, but it is always sweet. That's the thing about Judd Apatow. He's gross, but in the way that a lot of people are gross. I'm not saying that the characters are anywhere near our moral sphere, but I also kind of understand the characters.
We thought we were so hip and old when we saw this in 2012. Seven years ago, I was 28. My wife and I looked at each other and said, "Boy, they finally made a movie for us." We had one kid at the time and she was a baby. We were lying to ourselves now. My wife already thinks she's 40 and she's practically the same age as me. Apatow's stories are stories of the universal. Mind you, these stories would be universal if everyone we knew was hilarious and topical. I don't know if movies like This is 40 exist in reality or maybe a version of Hollywood reality. But Apatow gets people at their cores. The characters in Apatow movies act how I want to react to things. Those really mean things I think in my soul, they actually verbalize. But Apatow isn't encouraging people to let fly with their repressed emotions. Rather, these characters are painted in pretty rough lights when they spout off on their spouses or strangers. It actually makes me feel better as a person because we all see what should have been done versus what actually happened. This is 40 kind of takes it a step further considering that it defines itself as "the sort of sequel to Knocked Up." It's a spin-off, but the tagline they have works perfectly fine. Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd's characters are the ones who think that they have their lives together compared to the rough and tumble Seth Rogen. But they are mean people for a lot of the first movie. This is 40 doesn't necessarily change them. They are still kind of selfish and mean, but in realistic ways. I suppose that This is 40 should be way more depressing for me than it actually is. But instead of focusing on the selfish elements of them, they are more about survival. Like all of us, they have been fed the same lie that they are special and deserving of dream fulfillment.
That's pretty cynical. I'm really not doing the themes justice, but I can't help but address the issues that come with pursuing a dream. They have a family. They have the nuclear family, for goodness sake. They have a beautiful house and kids who, despite being rough for a lot of the movie, are absolutely lovable. But the adults of the film can't stop worrying about their own happiness. I am constantly fighting for my wife's happiness. It's kind of my priority in life. But a large part of me also wants to be happy. The This is 40 version of me would flip priorities. At no point do I think Leslie Mann wants Paul Rudd to be sad. The same holds true for Paul Rudd. He always wants his wife to be happy. But these are people who look out for themselves first. Pete wants Debbie to be happy as long as he can keep pursuing his dream of being a record producer. There are moments in there that I completely relate to. I want to be an author. Part of me is absolutely terrifying. I suppose I use my family as an excuse to not finish my novel. But I also know that I can't pull that card unless I am able to write for multiple hours at a time without interruption. (These blogs are written piecemeal in the five minutes here and there over the course of a day. It's why they get clunky from time to time.) But I'm always going to put my family first and that's what This is 40 kind of addresses. It's not a perfect analysis, but it's like 40 is the age that we have to decide how much we invest in ourselves versus the other. It's never a clear break like that in the film, but 40 is hard. Heck, 30 was hard. I can't imagine how my body is going to fall apart by 40. It's all these desires to be something bigger than you are and how that always doesn't work out. It's just so weird to see Debbie come down on Pete for his eating habits considering that he's really in shape and looks like he's younger than me.
Perhaps the complexity of Apatow's themes makes it hard for me to hit this analysis the way I want to. I think I don't like a lot of romantic comedies because they never seem like real relationships. Pete and Debbie belong together. They are absolutely in love, but love isn't always as easy as just doing what we want to all the time. It's obstacles from the outside. It's weird to think of my wife at work right now. She might be having a wonderful day. It might be the worst. But I want her just to be happy and I think that Apatow gets that. It is failing despite our best intentions. It's failing because our best intentions don't work, so we resort to the worst elements of our personalities. I'm terrified to see what happens when my kids stop seeing me as a god. It's going to be when I hit 40. My oldest is going to look at me and see the dork that everyone else sees. She's going to regret knowing so much Legend of Zelda trivia and I don't know how I'm going to handle it. A major element of how everything changes as we age is the relationship we have with our parents. In This is 40, Pete's dad is around the corner. He's a mooch and is loving the change in dynamic between parent and kid. Then there's the missing father story. Golly, John Lithgow is uncomfortable in this movie. Don't worry. He's supposed to be. Both my wife and I come from families that stayed together. I dealt with death on my side, but my wife hasn't experienced that. But I don't know what it would be like if my family decided to completely abandon us for years. This is 40 never deals with death, which I find odd. That seems like something that is way more prevalent for people our age. But This is 40 deals with abandonment and the balance that comes from wanting to be taken care of again. I love how earnest and honest Pete's birthday party is. Mind you, I wouldn't ever want to experience what they experience at Pete's birthday party, but the relationships don't always work out the way they are supposed to. People do let us down more than we care for. But there are moments, these silver lining moments, that warm the heart.
I suppose that, as bleak of a look at marriage This is 40 is, this is a story about the wonders of marriage and family. Pete and Debbie will always have problems, but they have these problems together. You get the vibe that Pete's 40th birthday party is the biggest hurtle that the two of them have faced and that they have both come out alive. Money issues suck, but they are just problems. Love is constantly changing and the movie stresses that marriages should be work. Considering that Pete and Debbie fight for the entire film, they don't really discuss divorce. There's a dangerous moment in the movie when an athlete (football?) hits on Debbie thinking she's single. She's wildly flattered, but she never even leads him on. The second she understands that she is the apple of his eye, she talks all about her marriage. She's actually confused by the flirtation and understands that not everyone is in the same situation. Marriage isn't always fun, but This is 40 explores why it is worth it. It does it in a really funny fashion. Sure, I don't love Jason Segel being around for the bulk of the movie. That confuses me more than anything that everyone is okay with that relationship. But these two will always be together. And I don't think it is because of the kids. I don't love their parenting style. In fact, it makes me cringe to think that real life couple Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow probably talk that way in front of their kids, who are the kids in this movie. The swearing makes me cringe, but I digress. These are people who are so devoted to marriage and family that the absence of any of these things doesn't even click with them. This isn't a film about divorce and how they rediscover their marriage. This is problem solving through marriage and that's pretty admirable. I know. Now I'm making this film a holy experience. It is far from that, but I still consider it a noble film.
Judd Apatow movies, for the most part, are all about the heart of the matter. Yes, they are wildly filthy. This is 40 only works when I watch it with my wife. It is about marriage and how rough it is, but that's a great thing. We kept on laughing at the movie, but we also laughed at ourselves. We felt better about ourselves as a couple as we inch towards our mutual 40th birthday parties. Yeah, it can be a bit of a bummer at times, but that's what life is. Apatow captures that through his characters in ways that make us smile, despite the fact that people are sometimes terrible to one another.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.