I had a choice between two movies this weekend: Les Miserables or This Is 40. I decided against The Miserables (it’s so depressing, and from what I’ve seen so far, the singing isn’t up to par of the stage productions I’ve seen) and went with This Is 40. It’s also sort of a tradition for me and my niece to see raunchy movies together. It’s never intentional, it’s just the movies we always pick turn out to be raunchy.
And from the very first scene, This Is 40 goes there. Let’s just say it involves Viagra and leave it at that. But honestly? It was also very funny. And, fortunately, there were a lot of funny moments in the film, but there were also a lot of un-funny moments, so let’s get to my review, shall we?
This is 40 is, obviously, about turning 40. It’s about those things that adults get to deal with: minor health problems, kids, marriage, financial troubles and trying to keep up with the Joneses. It centers around the lives of a couple – Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) – as well as their two children.
Let’s start with the good. My first impression of the film is that Leslie Mann is a completely under-appreciated actress. She can take comedy and run with it, but showing a scene with real emotion is also something she handles deftly. For example, in a scene at the doctor’s where she learns something that would make any 40-something woman scream, she shows a gamut of emotions that run from happy to freaked out to wanting to kill someone. And as the camera focuses on her face, we see the raw emotion from it. It’s both terrifying and funny, all at the same time. You really find yourself connecting to her character and feeling for her. Mann really gets to show off her brilliance as an actress here.
As far as funny moments go, there are plenty and I was laughing through much of This is 40. But there is also a lot of heavy emotional moments – scenes where the kids are screaming for their parents to stop fighting, for example – that literally tug at your heart strings. It’s a dramedy, in this sense, and not quite the all-out comedy I went into expecting. I had no problem with this, but was surprised at how intense the film gets at times. But these scenes work because of the actors involved.
Standouts in the film are the children, ironically played by Maude and Iris Apatow. These girls are talented and I hope to see more of them on the big-screen. When their film Mom and Dad are fighting, you see the tension in the way these two handle themselves. Little Iris Apatow, in particular, has a huge career ahead of her – she’s part of the emotional depth of this movie and gives it her own unique point of view.
Now on to the mediocore. Rudd appears, as expected, as Pete. He’s the one who has problems with responsibility (even at 40) and has issues with telling his wife about financial problems. He’s the one who is still having problems growing up and, at times, doesn’t understand the real value of money until he’s very nearly out of it. It’s a character Rudd plays in almost every film he’s been in. I’d like to think that Rudd has some range, but we still haven’t seen it yet.
Now on to the bad. The film’s running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes. This still makes it a relatively short movie, but I still feel about 30 minutes could have been trimmed towards the end. The entire party scene is a real drag and I honestly caught myself trying to stay awake during it. It’s not funny, or even silly, and it really has no relevance to the film. It’s just there.
This also leads to the characters of the dads in the film. Both Pete and Debbie are products of bad fathers. Pete’s dad is a mooch and Debbie’s, more or less, abandoned her as a child. Apatow used the fathers to explain the parents’ bad behaviors and I felt like this was a cheat because it keeps them from really dealing with their own problems. This part of the story was completely unnecessary.
I also had problems with feeling for the couple’s financial problems (for example, they had missed mortgage payments on their house) when they were driving around in a Mercedes and/or a Lexus. You would think the first thing they would consider was giving up at least one of their cars and down-sizing. Do well-off people not really even think of that? Seeing them driving their fancy cars on-screen sort of irked me for this reason. Both Pete and Debbie were having business issues and yet they were still riding around in these luxury automobiles. I mean, WTF?
Finally, the ending felt contrived. Without giving it away (although it’s a typical Hollywood ending), it seemed to come right out of the blue and left us with characters who still had major unresolved problems. But maybe that’s the point – maybe it’s that they have weathered the storms of their craziness and will continue to do so. But it’s not a point that’s made very well.
To sum up, I wouldn’t say skip This Is 40 altogether, but I would recommend waiting for the DVD.