Movie Review: "This is 40"
Rating: R (crude humor, sexual content, some drug material, pervasive language)
Length: 133 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 21, 2012
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Stars: 3 out of 5
Some of writer/director Judd Apatow's films are downright raunchy and have some gag-worthy moments. Despite the high amount of crudeness in his films, there was always another, sweeter element to them. In "This is 40," Apatow stays true to form by giving a portrait of a marriage in trouble that, although having plenty of crude moments, shows two people who clearly love each other but who have forgotten exactly what it was that made them get married in the first place.
The marriage in question is that of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), who audiences were first introduced to in the 2007 comedy "Knocked Up." The film picks up a few years after the events of that film, with both Pete and Debbie about to celebrate their fortieth birthdays. Debbie is insecure about her age because Pete doesn't seem attracted to her anymore and needed Viagra to make love to her on her birthday. It doesn't help that Desi (Megan Fox), an employee at Debbie's boutique, is young, taut, and scorching hot. Pete doesn't seem to be bothered by his age as much as his failing record label, which has put the financial security of his family in jeopardy.
They keep these and other secrets from each other, which causes a huge amount of tension in their marriage. They think they are hiding their strained relationship from kids Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow), but the girls know exactly what is happening. They begin to bicker and pick each other apart just as their parents do when they think the girls aren't watching. Pete and Debbie decide to try counseling to save their marriage, and realize that some of their anger towards each other comes from outside sources. For example, Pete's father Larry (Albert Brooks) is constantly borrowing money, which only adds to their financial strain. They try to gain control of their lives and make things better, but all of these pressing problems eventually come to a head. They must decide whether their marriage is worth saving, or if they should go their separate ways instead.
Apatow wisely takes Debbie and Pete on a short vacation to celebrate her birthday, which gives viewers the chance to see them outside of their normal life. Here, the pair is shown as a couple in love without a care in the world. Of course, the problems all come tumbling back the moment they are back home, but that little glimpse gives the audience hope that these two crazy kids can make it. That glimpse of happiness in an otherwise stalled marriage is why everyone will want to stay until the very end of the movie, to see if they can rekindle some of that fleeting romance. It is an astute move on Apatow's part as the screenwriter, and as the director, he does a great job of making it look realistic.
The chemistry between Mann and Rudd is superb, and is a large part of why "This is 40" works so well. Sure, they say some downright nasty things to each other sometimes, but they wouldn't gripe and moan if they weren't trying to make the other person better. When it is just Mann and Rudd on the screen, their exchanges can be downright electric at times. That is not an easy thing to accomplish, especially when one of those scenes is in a bathroom, with one of the actors sitting half naked on the toilet. A scene like that could be completely awkward and gross, but the chemistry between the two makes it realistic and funny instead.
All of Apatow's movies have a personal element to them, but "This is 40" is by far the most autobiographical of them. Not only is his real-life wife Mann cast in the role as the wife, but his own daughters are playing Debbie and Pete's two children. Beyond that, it is a very realistic portrait of a marriage between two people nearing middle age who don't know how they got to this exact spot in their lives. By all accounts, the Apatow-Mann marriage is a happy one, but that doesn't mean that it hasn't gone through the usual peaks and valleys. "This is 40" is an unflinching look at a marriage stuck in a deep valley with seemingly little hope of recovering. This could have been dour material to work with, but Apatow manages to imbue the film with warmth, heartache, and enough humor to make it relatable and fun.