Judd Apatow’s fourth film presents itself with self-deprecation, as the vague ‘sorta sequel’ to Knocked Up when in fact; it’s Apatow’s defining cinematic moment. While 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People orbit it’s Apatow having an amazing eye for comedic talent and what is funny, This is 40 feels like opening Apatow’s diary.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) are coming to terms with the uncomfortable significant ’40’ milestone and are thrust into a joint all-encompassing existential crises. Pete’s broken out on his own and is running a struggling niche record label, and supporting his mooching father (Albert Brooks); while Debbie is running a clothing store where her staff (Megan Fox and Charlyne Yi) may be stealing and attempting to reconnect with her own estranged father (John Lithgow). Financial woes, diminishing bedroom spark, teenagers in the social media age, daddy issues and weight issues all serve as the experiential comedic fodder for the pair of leads. Apatow’s talent lies in how he’s able to the wring the humour out of the full gamut of the marriage experience. The minutiae of life at the age of forty features infuriating dietary fads, the disgusting (but necessary) examinations of potential haemorrhoids, the humiliating mid gynaecological examination jokes and the two hour running time streams past.
Rudd’s Pete is the Apatow stand in, burdened by the pressures of providing for his family on the precipice of his failing dreams. It’s Rudd’s most whole and developed performance that utilises all his charm and dramatic chops to boot. Mann seriously shines in the glamour-less mother role of Debbie. Not only is she the fire cracker established in Knocked Up, but it’s the quieter dramatic moments paired with her abrasive side that makes the performance this time round. Mann’s real-life daughters (Maude and Iris Apatow) portray her on screen children and that allows for some beautifully tender moments.
There’s dynamite support in every possible role outside the leads. Comedic titan Albert Brooks is great occupying the impossible parent that you love to detest. Jason Segel (reprising his role as Jason from Knocked Up and now Deb’s Personal trainer) and Chris O’Dowd (Pete’s co-worker) provide some wonderful individual moments but are hysterical once they’re playing off of each other. And finally, Melissa McCarthy is unbelievable as the disgruntled parent who runs into Pete at the height of frustration. In one or two scenes she contrasts that sweetness from her Gilmore Girls days with her aggressive Bridemaids-esque filthy persona and nearly steals the entire film.
This is 40 consistently finds the humour in all facets of Pete and Debbie’s life; in their loving and sweet playful moments, in the pathetic and desperate moments, in the melancholy of seemingly inevitable financial and marriage failure. Apatow is a student of comedy and with each film has shed a layer of his insulation. This is 40 is his graduation, leaving him totally exposed – and you’re at your funniest when your pants are down.
[rating=4] and a half stars
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Written by: Judd Apatow
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Megan Fox, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy, Charlyne Yi, Lena Dunham and Jason Segel