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THIS IS 40 – News/reviews

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  • Scottferguson
    Sep 26th, 2011

    I keep hearing buzz that this could be a late sleeper entry in several categories.


    By Justin Chang

    Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann star in Universal’s ‘This is 40’

    A Universal release and presentation of an Apatow production. Produced by Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Clayton Townsend. Executive producer, Paula Pell. Co-producer, Lisa Yadavaia. Directed, written by Judd Apatow, based on characters created by Apatow.
    Pete – Paul Rudd
    Debbie – Leslie Mann
    Oliver – John Lithgow
    Desi – Megan Fox
    Sadie – Maude Apatow
    Charlotte – Iris Apatow
    Ronnie – Chris O’Dowd
    Jason – Jason Segel
    Catherine – Melissa McCarthy
    Himself – Graham Parker
    Larry – Albert Brooks
    Jodi – Charlyne Yi
    Judd Apatow’s instincts have rarely been sharper, wiser or more relatable than in “This Is 40,” an acutely perceptive, emotionally generous laffer about the joys and frustrations of marriage and middle age. Boasting the empathy, texture and underlying seriousness that have characterized the filmmaker’s output, this warts-and-all family portrait is anchored by splendid turns from Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, reprising their already full-bodied supporting roles from “Knocked Up.” Although a more mature work than its 2007 predecessor in every sense, “This” is still a bracingly ribald, foul-mouthed affair that will score as a year-end crowdpleaser and home-format favorite.

    Apatow’s house style is by now so well known, his imprimatur such a fixture of the mainstream comedy landscape, that it’s startling to remember that “This Is 40” is only his fourth feature as a writer-director. It also happens to be his most fully realized: Less high-concept than “Funny People,” “Knocked Up” or the similarly titled “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” Apatow’s script simply charts the progress of everyday family life over the course of an eventful three-week period, in which Debbie (Mann) and longtime husband Pete (Rudd) both kiss their 30s goodbye.

    From its candidly observed first scene, in which a hot-and-heavy lovemaking session suddenly goes south, the picture wastes little time getting audiences on an intimate basis with its characters and the indignities of midlife, middle-class malaise. These include another scene of coitus interruptus, a his-and-hers montage of invasive medical exams, and numerous casual discussions of flatulence and bowel movements; it’s the stuff of any number of raunchy comedies, but played here in a manner that not only elicits laughs, but also strips away everyone’s defenses to probe the soft, vulnerable places underneath.

    Debbie, who insists on telling others she’s still 38, impulsively initiates a household self-improvement plan: no more cigarettes for her, no more junk food for Pete, and much less time spent on the Internet for everyone. This last restriction doesn’t sit well with their Facebook-obsessed daughter, Sadie (Maude Apatow), who, at the difficult age of 13, finds herself increasingly at odds with her parents and her 8-year-old sister, Charlotte (Iris Apatow).

    The universal pressures of raising kids right, eating well, exercising regularly, keeping the house tidy, maintaining sexual passion and weathering the distractions of the technology age prove remarkably fertile subject matter for a comedy, and Apatow takes his portrait of marital strain one step further by delving into the family’s finances. Debbie, who owns a clothing store, suspects one of her employees (Megan Fox) is stealing from the till, while Pete, who runs a record label, has a habit of signing critically respected, commercially hopeless acts. It doesn’t help that he can’t stop lending money to his freeloading father, Larry (Albert Brooks).

    Rather than pivoting on a single development, “This Is 40” weaves all these stresses and concerns into a complex but seemingly off-the-cuff story, structured according to the push-pull, quarrel-and-reconcile rhythms of Pete and Debbie’s relationship. Even if they hadn’t already been established in “Knocked Up,” these characters would be instantly recognizable: He’s goofy, laid-back, slightly cowed by being the only guy in the family and desperate for some alone-time; she’s high-strung, shrill, extremely capable and anxious about losing her youth and beauty. That they still love each other is more than apparent when they sneak away to a resort for a few blissful nights of sex, pot and room service, enjoying an all-too-brief respite from the usual hustle-and-bustle.

    As accessible as Pete and Debbie are as characters, they also benefit from Apatow’s distinct verbal acumen, swearing like sailors, often reverting to self-shielding sarcasm, and defending their singular pop-culture tastes with die-hard enthusiasm. Rudd layers his good-guy demeanor with a sardonic edge that can ignite, when provoked, into full-blown rage. Mann, meanwhile, shows a quicksilver brilliance in a role that reveals strong reserves of compassion and complexity beneath a testy, impatient surface; when Debbie makes an alarming discovery halfway through the picture, the wordless play of inchoate emotions on the actress’ face is something to see.

    The ensemble is studded with superb supporting players, many of them Apatow alums: Melissa McCarthy as another kid’s belligerent mom (yielding some of the funniest end-credits outtakes in recent memory); Jason Segel as Debbie’s smug personal trainer; and Chris O’Dowd as Pete’s lazy assistant. Fox comes off surprisingly well, locating unexpected pathos beneath her supermodel veneer. Yet the standout is Brooks, infuriating and lovable as Pete’s mooch of a dad; the stark contrast between loquacious Larry and Debbie’s distant, politely Waspish dad (a fine John Lithgow) feels a bit tidy, but the performances are so good it scarcely matters.

    Apatow’s daughters, acting for a third time opposite real-life mother Mann, acquit themselves well, with Maude in particular navigating one high-pitched adolescent tirade after another. A prominent role given to singer-songwriter Graham Parker, cast as one of Pete’s clients, supplies texture and detail, as well as a handful of songs to go with the soundtrack’s more ubiquitous pop selections.

    D.p. Phedon Papamichael’s crisp compositions show off the family homestead (nicely outfitted by production designer Jefferson Sage) and Los Angeles locations to warm, inviting effect. Brent White and Jay Deuby’s editing has a sharp sense of comic timing and pacing, although at 134 minutes, the film is, like many of Apatow’s pics, long for a comedy; scenes featuring an unnecessarily creepy Charlyne Yi and too many semi-dated references to Sadie’s obsession with ABC’s “Lost” could easily have been excised. But the rambling, affectionate sprawl of “This Is 40” is entirely in keeping with Apatow’s irresistible philosophy that such messiness, being a part of life, should also be a part of movies.


    Sep 26th, 2011

    Todd McCarthy/HRep is much more mixed

    Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann star in director Judd
    Apatow’s “west-of-the-405” comedy.

    Judd Apatow‘s new big-studio home movie is
    a two-hour wobble between the honestly funny and the downright unbearable. Truth
    be told, there is more that’s hard to take in the first half and more hilarity
    in the second, which is a good thing, but it remains unclear whether the
    filmmaker would recognize the difference between the two.

     our editor recommends


    Writer Roundtable: Osama bin Laden, Why ‘Schindler’s List’ Is Irresponsible and
    When Judd Apatow Was a Dishwasher


    Writers Roundtable: Judd Apatow on the Fights With His Wife That Led to ‘This Is
    40’ (Video)


    Is 40’ Featurette Delivers Sex Talk, Constipation and Middle-Aged Frustration


    Classic Gets Reworked for Judd Apatow’s ‘This Is 40’


    Apatow Cast Graham Parker in ‘This is 40’ After Reading a ‘Funny Blog’ Entry by
    the ’70s Rocker

    Using the three female members of his immediate family in leading roles
    opposite Paul Rudd as his alter ego, the most productive comic
    filmmaker of the past several years serves up a goulash of autobiography,
    confessional, self-psychoanalysis, marriage counseling, midlife angst,
    anatomical pranks, well-oiled shtick and far too many scenes that calculatedly
    end with obscene kickers. Even with all its ups and downs, there are more than
    enough bawdy laughs and truthful emotional moments to put this over as a
    mainstream audience pleaser during a holiday season short on good comedies.

    VIDEO: ‘This Is 40’ Trailer Delivers Sex Talk,
    Constipation and Middle Aged Frustration

    Part of the problem going in is that This Is 40 is a member of the
    mini-genre of west-of-the-405 movies. This won’t mean much to people who don’t
    live in Los Angeles, but such films — arguably launched by James L.
    ‘ insufferable Spanglish in 2004 — examine a species of
    people (many of them in the upper realms of show business) who live in a bubble
    of extreme affluence in the Brentwood vicinity and seem to devote all their time
    to their appearance, diet, exercise regimens, status and neuroses without
    exhibiting any regard for or awareness of the outside world. Such people are a
    breed apart, ripe for derision and satire but due little sympathy from the
    general public.

    Fitting all of these qualifications is the attractive family of Pete (Rudd),
    wife Debbie (Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann) and daughters Sadie and
    Charlotte (the Apatows’ real daughters Maude and
    ), wherein the parents almost invariably are at each others’
    throats and the girls are forever yelling and complaining. It’s also
    midlife-crisis time: First Debbie and then Pete are turning 40 in the same week,
    though Debbie dives into denial by having her cake topped by a “38” and later
    even lies to her doctors about her age.


    VIDEO: THR’s Oscar Roundtable: 6 Writers Tell All in
    Uncensored Interview


    Under her husband’s direction, Mann, who played the same role opposite Rudd
    in Knocked Up five years ago, walks a very fine line between being
    unafraid to expose her character’s flaws and being so impossible you want to
    scream. During the film’s initial stages, it’s much more the latter, as Debbie’s
    therapeutic mind-set, touchy-feely instincts and control-freak behavior make for
    a toxic brew. Fortunately, as the characterization deepens through the second
    half and Debbie’s flaws are outweighed by her willingness to adapt and try on
    new attitudes, you begin to appreciate how game Mann is to lay it all out as she
    does; after all, how many actresses have been willing to be shown undergoing a
    mammogram or assessing her husband’s hemorrhoids?


    That said, the way Apatow loads up the early going with gross sexual gags
    perhaps reveals a certain anxiety about his shifting gears from outright comedy
    to more observational humor; he seems to want to nail the laughs to reassert his
    standing as an outrageous comic talent before wading into the trickier waters of
    emotional and psychological nuance and insight. The fuller rewards of the film
    show up eventually, but it takes time. 

    With all their angst about aging and their frequent queries about whether
    they can stand each other any longer, Pete’s and Debbie’s big, largely
    unacknowledged problem is that they’ve been living beyond their means and things
    are only getting worse. Pete runs a record label now overly devoted to old guys
    whose new work doesn’t sell (Graham Parker gracefully appears
    as himself in this context), he and Debbie own a local boutique plagued by
    salesgirls (Megan Fox and Charlyne Yi, both
    very amusing) who might be robbing them blind, and Pete siphons money every
    month to his mooching dad (Albert Brooks), who has a much
    younger wife and three identical little towheaded sons.


    VIDEO: Judd Apatow on Casting His Daughters in ‘This Is


    It occurs to Pete to sell the house — which, given its size and the
    neighborhood, probably could sell for at least $4 million or $5 million — but
    he can’t bring himself to propose this to his status-conscious, perfectionist
    wife. In other words, it’s not too easy to feel sorry for them. Instead, Pete
    withdraws, to the john several times a day, where Debbie thinks nothing of
    interrupting him; to manic bicycling; and into ’70s music, his real love. “Why
    is your instinct to escape?” Debbie barges in to ask while he’s sitting on the
    crapper, rivaling the stridency of Tea Leoni‘s
    character in Spanglish, which could have been set on the next street


    Apatow hasn’t supplied what could be called a strong plot for This Is
    but there is a sufficient structure to keep it upright, especially as
    it all leads to an extended 40th birthday party for Pete that caps the film in
    excellent fashion. Very amusingly, most of the film’s tensions and conflicts get
    flung right out in the open during this well-orchestrated sequence: Debbie’s
    nonexistent relationship with her straight-arrow biological father (an
    excellent John Lithgow); Pete’s dad’s simmering sense of
    inferiority and resentment; the kids’ assorted emotional and hormonal issues;
    the competition between two guys (Jason Segel and Chris
    ) over the attentions of Fox’s naughty girl; and, most of all, of
    course, a final airing of remaining lurking issues between Pete and Debbie. The
    smart manner in which all of this is pulled together and at least momentarily
    resolved goes a long way toward making up for all the mud and gum Apatow gets on
    his shoes in the first half.


    There’s not a weak or false note struck by the cast, as everyone (including
    his family, of course, as well as Apatow-world regulars and newcomers including
    Brooks, Lithgow, Fox and Melissa McCarthy) gets on the
    live-wire wavelength. McCarthy only has two big scenes, but both are classic,
    the second funnier than the first. Under no circumstances should anyone leave
    before the end credits, as McCarthy’s extended riff from her second scene is
    perhaps the most hilarious-ever example of an outtake included in a final
    roll-up since the practice began. It leaves you with an exceptionally good taste
    in your mouth, even if you’d been tempted to send the meal back two hours



    ReplyCopy URL
    May 14th, 2011

    Apatow is overdue for an Oscar nomination (not a win) and I am currently predicting him to fill that last open slot in Adapted Screenplay.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Jun 28th, 2012

    I wouldn’t say he’s overdue. 40 Year Old Virgin was one of my favorites of 2005, so I wouldn’t have minded a screenplay nod. Knocked-Up imo was vastly overrated. If the reviews are consistent enough I could see this being potential screenplay or Best Actress spoiler. Maybe Best Song (I gotta see Fiona Apple at the Oscars).

    ReplyCopy URL
    Nov 4th, 2010

    O no. Please. Not another film I dont want to see.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Graeme O’Neil
    Sep 28th, 2011

    My review: http://onthegointo.com/?p=7549 

    ReplyCopy URL
    Miss Frost
    Sep 14th, 2011

    Sorry but with a score of 62% and a Metacritic score of 56, this film is not getting anywhere. I cannot believe people actually think this mediocrity is a contender for screenplay. Sorry that category is filled with deserving contenders. Moving on.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Guilty of Being Innocent
    Nov 17th, 2010

    One of my least favorite movies of the year. I loved The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, but Apatow’s self-absorbance reaches its peak with this one. The movie is WAY too long, plus its not funny. It’s sad. Maybe being in my early 20’s makes it difficult to relate to, but I just could not get into it.

    Rudd,Mann and Lithgow are fantastic, though.


    ReplyCopy URL
    Nov 3rd, 2010

    I thought this was very good, and very funny in places, the scene with Charlene Yi was amazing and several others were hilarious too, but as usual with Apatow the movie is way too long. By the time the end comes you’re just so bored, tired or laughing about how the movie should’ve ended 20 minutes ago that you just don’t care anymore. 

    And there’s something missing when you compare it to Knocked Up and Virgin that were also long but it didn’t matter. Here it does.

    The performances are great, Leslie Mann was fantastic, although she has her Leslie Mann-ness that makes you think it’s the same performance since 2005, but you can cheat yourself with “it’s the one from Knocked Up so it’s ok because it’s a sequel”. Paul Rudd was also very good, possibly his best ever and Maude Apatow was also very good (she did have a rough start during her first scene). The supporting cast also did a good job from Brooks to Fox to Lithgow and of course, Charlene Yi (never thought I would put Megan Fox between those two). 

    The funniest part was not seeing Katherine Heigl anywhere, I still don’t know why Seth Rogen didn’t have at least a 30 second scene. 

    ReplyCopy URL
    May 22nd, 2011

    I keep hearing buzz that this could be a late sleeper entry in several categories.

    Who told you that?

    Saw this on Thursday. Pretty terrible film all around. Boring, overlong, smug, self important, aimless, plotless, bad acting (Apatow’s kids aren’t that great) and Rudd and Mann keep giving the same type of performance.

    This one is pretty insufferable. It’s a true failure on every level.

    ReplyCopy URL
    May 25th, 2011

    I liked this film alot. Great performances, but i’ll agree that it went a little long but still good. I would have liked a little more Jason Segel and Chris O’Dowd. This film and Friends with Kids are the only films where Megan Fox wasn’t horrible. 

    ReplyCopy URL
    Sep 26th, 2011

    [quote=”Scottferguson”]I keep hearing buzz that this could be a late sleeper entry in several categories.

    Who told you that?

    Saw this on Thursday. Pretty terrible film all around. Boring, overlong, smug, self important, aimless, plotless, bad acting (Apatow’s kids aren’t that great) and Rudd and Mann keep giving the same type of performance.

    This one is pretty insufferable. It’s a true failure on every level.[/quote]

    Heard it from a couple of usually savvy movie journalists more than a month ago, then saw this shortly after – I was mixed about it, had for me some strong moments, but very uneven  

    ReplyCopy URL
    Jul 13th, 2011

    Um, “This is 40” was absolutely atrocious and worst of all, it wasnt the least bit funny. What a waste of talented actors on a horrible self-indulgent and irritating script. Just dreadful. It has no chance in any category. Seriously. It’s awful…. 

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