There is a shift happening, people! Can you feel it? We, as the general viewing audience, are seeing our film comedies transition from plain dick and fart jokes, to thought provoking, enlightening, and obscure films. We aren’t seeing people pretend they are zits; they are going into a discussion of why are they are getting zits and how that makes them feel! It’s a shift that is happening before our very eyes and it’s at times appalling! Who can we blame, good friends? Who is asking us to laugh and think!? Thy enemy’s name is Judd Apatow!
Over the last several years, we have seen Judd Apatow transcend traditional comedy and bring forth a realistic, and sometimes painful, style of comedy. This is extremely evident when viewing This is 40.
This is 40 is the self proclaimed ‘sort of sequel’ to the 2007 smash hit Knocked Up. In this film, we follow Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), as they explore life and the harshness that it can provide. Since we last saw these two, Pete has moved on to create his own record label, where he can sign the artists that mean something to him, which translates to artists that have no relevancy in today’s market, other than being labeled as classic rock (sorry Graham Parker). With low sales and little public interest in relics, Pete is drowning in his failure and unable to tell his wife. Things aren’t much greener on the other side, as Debbie is going through a crisis of her own. She feels unattractive and inadequate in her marriage, and she struggles with repressed issues involving her biological father (portrayed superbly by John Lithgow).
This is 40 is not the laugh out loud comedy that one has grown accustom to. That is not say that there aren’t moments of laughter, especially for the many Lost fans out there. What Apatow has done, and has been doing since Funny People, is provide us comedy that is rooted in real situations! The horror! Whether it’s watching Pete pontificate on how he might be happier if his wife were to just suddenly die, or watching Debbie hide the Marlboro stench from her family, it strikes a chord with us since at some point we, the viewing audience, have been there; we’ve seen that fight or that conversation before. It’s like he’s writing for us! Rudd and Mann’s chemistry is genuine and lovely to watch, even at their lowest and most painful moments. What really sells this nuclear family, however, are their kids, Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow), Apatow and Mann’s real life kids. Iris’ Charlotte is a scene-stealer as the youngest and purest member of the family who hold the family’s morals, even when everyone else seems to have lost their way.
It’s as if we are the parents and Judd Apatow’s film career is our child. We are watching him grow with each outing as he creates. To place him on a filmography timeline, This is 40 shows Apatow in his twenties; serious with hint of nostalgia. We do, of course, get to dabble in old characters from it’s film predecessor. Jason Segal returns as an older version of himself, no longer working on a ‘Mr. Skin’-esq website and now working as a personal trainer to Debbie. Charlyne Li returns as Jodi, working in Debbie’s boutique and still acting very much as oddly as she was the first time we saw her. Megan Fox provides some depth to Desi, the conduit for Debbie’s need to feel young again.
This is 40 is a brutally honest film that touches on the heart strings and plucks at the funny bone. It’s a treat for those in a long term relationship, married, or just in transition. I look forward to Apatow’s next few films, for he is what I look for in a writer/director: honesty, realism, and down-right funny. Like Kevin Smith, I would like to see Apatow gives us more films like this.
So loyal readers, brace yourselves…comedies will make you think! Honestly, that doesn’t sound half bad.