Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #202
Number of Views: One
Release Date: December 21, 2012
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $88,058,786
Running Time: 133 minutes
Director: Judd Apatow
Producers: Judd Apatow, Clayton Townsend, Barry Mendel
Screenplay: Judd Apatow
Cinematography: Phedon Papamichael
Score: Jon Brion
Editing: Brent White, David L. Bertman
Studio: Apatow Productions
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segel, Charlyne Yi, Tim Bagley, Melissa McCarthy, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Ryan Lee, Lena Dunham, Chris O’Dowd, Robert Smigel, Annie Mumolo
Suggested Audio Candy
Ryan Adams “Lucky Now”
I heard somewhere recently that forty is the new thirty. If that is the case then thirty is twenty, twenty… ten and screw passing a ten-year-old through your Fallopian flume. I think it’s all a load of BS to be entirely honest. You are as old as you feel. I have a rather exclusive vantage point when it comes to this argument as I currently teeter over this personal landmark and think it absolute poppycock. Life begins at 40 they say. Well, should that be accurate, then who the hell has been living my life up until now?
“40 can suck my dick!” is one of the opening lines of dialogue from Judd Apatow’s insightful dramedy and is delivered with vitriol by Apatow’s spouse Leslie Mann’s Debbie who, approaching her birthday fast, is rather bitter at having the best years behind her. She refuses to accept it as do many folk and chooses instead to lie about her age. This is another concept that befuddles me, it is regarded as a poison chalice by many when, at the end of play, you’re just another day older. Apatow decides to put this denial under the microscope although this is much more of a long-term relationship study than anything else.
Those who recall the marvelous Knocked Up will already be more than aware of Pete and Debbie. Instead of opting for a full-blown sequel, Apatow instead hones in on their personal journey and there is no sign of Seth Rogen or Katherine Hiegl. Their dynamic has already been explored and provided some of Knocked Up’s finest moments. In particular, a scene where Debbie suspects Pete of cheating only to discover he escapes purely for a weekly fantasy baseball league and another where she is refused entry to a nightclub because of her being old as shit. Both offered the kind of dialogue Apatow has become known for and give us all the motivation required to delve in once again in their own standalone story.
The factor which, for Keeper, has made his films so refreshing is that I can relate to so much of what he is saying. I saw shades of myself in Steve Carrell’s character from The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Rogen in Knocked Up. But what really sets him apart from the crowd is that his works are effective on so many levels. He writes for both sexes and, moreover, is evidently a reflective soul as he gets it on the money with astonishing regularity. His films are traditionally over the 120-minute mark and this is testament to how well conceived and written they are.
This is 40 is no different and fills its running time effortlessly, taking us through a few days in the couple’s hectic lives and allowing us to experience it from both perspectives. In addition, Apatow’s own children play Sadie and Charlotte making it an even more intimate project as only Paul Rudd steps in from outside of their otherwise authentic family circle. It shows as the chemistry between the sisters is spot on and their banter supremely relatable. Both are excellent, in particular, the older of the two as she is on the cusp of adolescence and undergoing life’s teenage spin cycle throughout. Again, rather than making her a snotty disillusioned brat, Apatow gives her some of the most meaningful dialogue. This is because he is never satisfied with cloning the archetype and requests we witness enough to gain understanding of the breed, rather than contempt.
Mann and Rudd are great together, their marriage ebbs and flows in much the same manner as any relationship and, from a male perspective, there is so much within Pete with which I can personally identify. He still feels the necessity to flee for those few precious moments during each day and latrine Scrabble and Bejeweled afford him that luxury at every available juncture. He scoffs cup cakes in secret and engages in all the mistruth telling that we, as a breed, spout habitually. This is not because we are the Antichrist, far from it, and Apatow fleshes the scenario enough to show that we are simple creatures who only tell these fibs for a quiet life.
Paul Rudd is something of a legend in my books. Horror aficionados will instantly recall his turn in the long-banished Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers and he has a colorful résumé which has reached its pinnacle in recent years. He is unwaveringly accurate in his portrayal of downtrodden Pete and exhibits much of our weaknesses as a sex. However, he is also fiercely loyal and devoted, and Apatow never looks at fragmenting their union through other parties or duplicitous behavior. This is as refreshing as cream soda on a long hot summer afternoon and consequently keeps us invested and willing them on.
Debbie is historically bad cop but is shown letting her hair down and living life. She is also observed with her tendrils flailing as she protects her oldest daughter’s honor as does Pete in an uproarious exchange with the antagonist’s mother (a priceless cameo by Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy). All of this adds layers and reveals their dodecahedron-esque personas exquisitely. Apatow writes from his heart and constantly from experience, warts and all, this is such a selfless approach to film-making and he is a true visionary of our time.
He doesn’t stop at that age bracket either and this is proven by a brace of glorious performances from Albert Brooks and John Lithgow as the pair’s dysfunctional parental figures. Oliver is, by his own admittance, something of a failed role model much as he was in Orange County. He has missed huge chunks of Debbie’s life and, despite being a successful surgeon, sucks at being a responsible adult. Larry is no less flawed and is an incessant drain on Pete’s pocket but is warm, funny and sharp in his observations. Both come across as affable and the two old-timers take it all effortlessly in their stride. Outside of this Apatow regular Jason Segel, Chris O’Dowd and Megan Fox all excel in their supporting capacities.
It would be fruitless for me to attempt picking fault with This is 40. All stars are aligned, just as they were when Knocked Up birthed, and it stands alongside it as perfect companion piece. It may not be as memorable but that is, in no way a criticism, merely the premise doesn’t have quite the amount of slack to pull. But it is further proof if you still need it that Judd Apatow is, without exception, at the very top of the tree. As for 40…well it better get its lipstick on as it can suck my dick too.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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