Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published January 12th 2013
For Judd Apatow to have a mid-life crisis on screen, you know it's not going to be some dour, hand-ringing, navel-gazing story of infidelity and tortured souls. There are going to be serious belly laughs and plenty of scenes involving toilets, gynaecologists and drugs.
That's not to say that This Is 40 is not full of moments that the over 40's crowd will painfully identify with, because they will. Apatow has managed to give us something which is both very funny and very real.
Having his wife, Leslie Mann, play the lead, and his two daughters play the kids, goes some way to developing a feel of authenticity. You can just imagine the rehearsal process. Comic everyman, Paul Rudd, completes the immediate family by playing Apatow's alter-ego, Pete.
Pete and his wife are about to turn 40. They've always jointly celebrated their birthdays, but with the big milestone looming, Debbie is in denial.
The couple have very believable mid-life problems: high maintenance children, problematic parents, financial woes, and a lack of passion in their relationship. How Apatow milks humour from the ordinary is what makes him such a good writer/director. Making his characters flawed but sympathetic is a big factor in why this works so well.
There's a good chance younger audiences will also get into the spirit of things. There's certainly enough pop culture references and physical comedy for the film to work on various levels, and with a cast of comedians that also includes Chris O'Dowd, Albert Brooks, Jason Segel, John Lithgow, Lena Dunham and Melissa McCarthy, there's a lot to like on screen. And it's advised that you don't rush out when the end credits start, as McCarthy spews forth a string of invective in a scene which alone is worth the price of admission.
This is a hugely satisfying experience; relatable, hilarious and destined to become Apatow's most enduring comedy so far.