Friday, January 4, 2013

This Is 40: Rudd and Mann Assoluta

Funny and relentlessly profane, it captures the rut of Judd Apatow’s middle age too well

Dexter Joins Some Fun with the Cast of This Is 40
     Judd Apatow’s This Is 40 makes the audience feel like it’s watching a home movie.  That’s because it features so many of his acting collaborators (Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Iris and Maude Apatow, Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy, Tim Bagley, Chris O’Dowd, Charlyne Yi, Lena Dunham) as well as new ones that fit right in (Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Megan Fox) and I think it uses the same house the main characters lived in
during Knocked Up, it’s sort of prequel.  Unfortunately, it also shows Apatow falling into repetition.  Just as Kaylee pointed up the Harry Potter formula when she was thirteen, she nailed Apatow last week with “they’re funny for an hour, then they get really serious before finishing on a funny note.  And they’re fifteen minutes too long.”  A respected dramaturge couldn’t be pithier or more accurate. 

Rudd and Mann Playing Around
     Rudd (as Apatow’s alter ego) and Leslie Mann (Apatow’s muse and actual wife) are completely believable as a long time married couple facing middle age with little grace or common sense (sort of like most of us who’ve faced it).  Their conflicts with one another, while well acted, feel like bickering and it’s difficult to take them very seriously when they live in such a lovely house, are raising such precious daughters, and have financial problems that they’ve allowed to get out of hand.  Most of their underlying issues are dumped
Fathers Lithgow and Brooks
at their fathers’ doors (thank goodness for Freud even now), though their usage of therapy talk while they’re arguing is hilarious.  The F word usage is so extraordinarily continual that I wish someone would connect the kids at least to an online thesaurus.

     The main problem for me is that I know many people living paycheck to paycheck and working desperately to survive and I just cannot find a lot of sympathy for these upper-middle class characters.  However, as Neil pointed out, the art direction and set design capture the milieu thoroughly.  The difference between this and Bridesmaids, which Apatow produced but didn’t write or direct, is that Kristen Wiig’s character was on a precipice and it wasn’t because of self-delusion or selfishness.  This is subtly underlined during the end credits when Melissa McCarthy, who plays a righteously ticked off and self-knowing mother of one of their older daughter’s school friends, lays into these two egotistical characters and the school’s Vice-Principal.  It’s funny during the movie, but in the credits it’s powerful because McCarthy never breaks and sounds as if she’s improvising, though she sticks resolutely to the script.  Rudd and Mann crack up about half way through her tirade and that made me wonder:  is this just a set-up?

Melissa McCarthy Defending Her Son

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