Director: Judd Apatow
Writer: Judd Apatow
Bitter asshole who rarely thinks of other people: Paul Rudd
Puts forth a heroic effort throughout the movie: Leslie Mann
Does not stab anyone to death with a fork: Albert Brooks
Reprises his 3rd Rock from the Sun character: Jonathan Lithgow
Paycheck: Jason Segel
Made me laugh a lot, then terrified me: Charlyne Yi
Were those really real? I need to see them again: Megan Fox
Swears and she means it: Maude Apatow
What a sweetheart: Iris Apatow
Thanks for stopping by: Melissa McCarthy
Tom Petty: Ryan Lee
Girl: Lena Dunham
Graham Parker: Graham Parker
The Rumour: The Rumour
21st Century Breakdown: Billie Joe Armstrong
TV FUNHOUSE: Rob Smigel
She appeared: Annie Mumolo
What It's Good For:
-vicarious catharsis for parents who love their kids but want to shit talk their kids
-making jokes about how you can love someone intensely but sometimes wish they were dead
-seeing people be sad and angry
-seeing Megan Fox
-Leslie Man topless
-all the supporting characters
-Leslie Mann shit talking a kid (another vicarious catharsis)
-showing 128 minutes worth of problems and then wrapping it all up nicely in the final 3 minutes though not really solving anything (I don't think)
-watching people play music
-Paul Rudd being a dick
-seeing Paul Rudd's upper thigh
-making you think of "I love you, Man"
-people who have never watched an Apatow movie
-repeats many elements from Apatow's other movies
-you get tired of seeing such unhappy and frustrated people
-it's sort of long
-more drama than comedy? so if you go in expecting comedy...
-weak conclusion? or a conclusion that seems happy but is actually flimsy (which is fine, but it's an underdeveloped flimsy, I think)
-I didn't care what happened to these people, they could have broken up and it wouldn't have mattered to me
-she doesn't hit him with the van as he's speeding around dangerous suburban turns on his bike
There's a debate to be had about repetition. But I'm not ready to have it. There are people who think every Nickelback song sounds the same and hates them for it. And there are people who think every Nickelback song is awesome. I liked Disturbed's first three albums. Especially the third, Ten Thousand Fists, because it sounded fresh to me (was that a guitar solo!?!?). The 4th? Sounded a lot like the third. I still liked individual songs but...Eh. When Asylum came out...I gave it two listens and was glad I hadn't bought it. Why? Because it sounded too similar to the the third and fourth albums. With that said: there are people who love every single Disturbed album. There are people who think Asylum is their best album.
I'm not saying This is 40 isn't good. People will like it. Some people will love it. Some will say it's Apatow's best work.
All I want to do is point out some repetition. So here are the top 16 things Judd Apatow has repeated in his films.
16. Woman owns a small business
In 40-Year-Old Virgin Trish owns her "We Sell Your Stuff on Ebay" store. Likewise, in This is 40, Debbie has her clothing store.
15. The number "40" being used
Obviously: 40-Year-Old Virgin. This is 40. But in Funny People George Simmons is in his 40s and not very happy.
14. Real-life famous musicians perform
In Funny People, we get to see James Taylor playing. In This is 40, we get performances by both Graham Parker & The Rumour plus Ryan Adams.
13. Middle class to upper-middle class settings
All of Apatow's main characters have been middle to upper-middle class people. Except in Funny People, where George Simmons is straight rich. Even though Ben Stone is a pot smoking slacker, he's still middle class thanks to his injury benefits. All of these characters remain in their comfort zones. Unless you count George Simmons descending to join in a dinner at Ira's apartment. This is 40 deals with the idea of descending status, with the financial troubles Pete and Debbie are in. The biggest change we see them make is getting rid of wi-fi? There's the psychological strain of constraining their lifestyle. But we don't really see them dealing with a complete and total change. For instance: the film doesn't explore how they react to a smaller house or a different neighborhood or having to drive not a BMW.
Because these characters are middle class in what I assume is always LA, they stick to largely middle class and upper-middle class places. Shopping centers. Restaurants. Vacation places. Nice homes. Clubs.
12. Leslie Mann in a club
75% of Apatow's movies have Leslie Mann in a club.
11. Large and strong supporting cast
Every movie features a large and strong supporting cast of characters.
Virgin has Rudd, Rogen, Jane Lynch, Elizabeth Banks, Kat Dennings, Kevin Hart, and Jonah Hill.
Knocked Up has Rudd, Mann, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Charlyne Yi, Harold Ramis, Alan Tudyk, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ken Jeong. Not to mention appearances by a ton of celebrities.
Funny People has Mann, Bana, Schwartzman, Hill, Audrey Plaza, RZA, Aziz Ansari, AND A TON OF CELEBRITIES.
This is 40: Segel, Yi, Megan Fox, Melissa McCarthy, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Lena Dunham, Chris O'Dowd, and Rob Smigel.
10. Dialogue about serious stuff is made into comedy
Look at the people named in the previous point. They are all comedic people. I didn't even name all of the comedic people. Okay, RZA isn't known as a comedian. But everyone else is someone who gets paid, for a living, to make people laugh.
Apatow started as a comedian. Comedy is what he does. With Virgin, we saw how Apatow wove comedy into dialogue about virginity (Carrell), frustration (Kenner's outbreak about "why won't you fuck me!"), heartbreak (Rudd), a black customer fighting with a black employee, drunken driving (Mann), and crazy club sex-fiends (Banks). Knocked Up went a notch above to had a more serious plot (Oh shit, we had a kid, now what?) also channeled through comedic dialogue expressing self-doubt (Rogen), anger (the fight between Rogen and Heigel), love (Rogen and Heigel), and marriage (Rudd and Mann). Funny People showed the very real pain behind the life of comedians (and the pettiness: Ira's friends were jerks), with none hurting worse (or at least feeling the most sorry for himself) than the richest one of them all.
This is 40 does the same thing. Body changes (My boobs are just...gone. They didn't even say goodbye."), loving someone but recognizing how much of a pain they can be (Rudd and Smigel discussing how they'd want their spouses to die), the frustration of kids (Rudd and Mann).
9. Movies become about the problems between a couple
Virgin starts out about Andy's virginity, but it becomes about how his virginity affects his relationship with Trish.
Knocked up is about the problems of two people trying to figure out their relationship when they go from strangers to having a kid together.
Funny People becomes about Simmons trying to reclaim his ex-wife, while also being about the relationship between Simmons and Ira.
This is 40 is about the problems of Pete and Debbie, problems we had thought resolved in Knocked Up.
8. Kids are a pain but a joy
Trish tells Andy she has a hard time dating because she has three kids, and one of her kids has a kid. Marla, Trish's eldest daughter, interrupts Trish and Andy the first time they're about to sleep together. But Andy's acceptance of Trish being a (hot) grandmother is one of the things that endears him to her. It's also because he's able to connect with her children he is ultimately successful with Trish.
Knocked Up repeats the same sort of situation, but in a different context. Ben and Alison are brought together because they're having a baby together, but it's precisely that they're having a baby together that they're having problems: Ben hasn't matured to the point of being a dependable partner, in the eyes of Alison. He must grow beyond his adolescent habits and indulgences to be someone who can support a family with money, knowledge, and emotional equilibrium. Alison also has to learn to be way less uptight. The kid is the impetus for all the love gain and all the growing pains endured.
In Funny People, kids are the deciding factor that ruins George and Laura getting back together. While watching the video of Laura's daughter, Mable, singing "Memory", from Cats, we see the charm and joy and love in Laura's face. George is checking his cell phone. When Laura sees this, the forward momentum George had with her is murdered, in stride, and it's corpse is dragged back to the finish line by the large, Australian Eric Bana.
And This is 40, the kids are, also, frustrating and uniting. Pete and Debbie obviously love their kids. They hug them, they talk about them, they talk about how wonderful and smart the kids are. But they also have reason to hate their kids. Like when Pete is getting a blow job and the kids interrupt. That sucks. Pete and Debbie discuss whether or not they'd even be together if it wasn't for the kids? After Pete and Debbie have their largest fight, it's by discussing how they feel about Debbie's pregnancy that they're able to reunite.
7. Climactic bike ride
50% of Judd Apatow's movies have, after the climactic fight, a man ride a bike at high speeds, in dangerous, high-traffic areas. While the man is on the bike, the female is in a vehicle. In Virgin, Andy is chasing Trish. In This is 40, Debbie and Larry are in a van trying to find where Pete has gone. Both of these bike rides end with an accident and with the fight that had caused the bike ride forgotten, and both rides are followed by the patching up of the overriding conflict.
Andy rides a bike because he doesn't drive. Pete has a car available. The fact he chooses to ride a bike might have something to do with Debbie constantly bugging him about his cupcake intake. Pete might associate the bike with the type of lifestyle Debbie wants from him, so he's acting out with the bike. LIke "This is what you want from me, fine, fine!" But it probably also embodies his own healthy vision of himself, the one we saw him pursuing at the beginning of the movie that he, without notice, abandons. What I'm saying: Andy riding the back is circumstantial. Pete riding the bike is a choice. (I hate the fact that Apatow has two climactic bike rides, no matter what the context is for the second one. Unless Debbie would have hit Pete and killed/paralyzed/comatosed/messed up Pete as he was coming around one of those corners. That would have been shocking and too bold a choice not respect.)
6. Maude and Iris Apatpw
These two have played sisters in 75% of Apatow's movies.
5. Paul Rudd
Rudd had supporting roles in Virgin and Knocked Up, before being the lead in This is 40. He plays Pete twice.
4. Seth Rogen
Rogen began with a supporting role before having back-to-back starring roles for Apatow.
3. Leslie Mann
Her role in Apatow's films has increased significantly. In Virgin, she was a drunken club chick who did a ton of gross stuff and was tragi-comedy at its finest. In Knocked Up, she played Debbie, and was a way to show Alison marriage and parenthood could be nothing but a frustration but then they could be the best things in the world. This marriage/parenthood bipolarism is pretty much repeated in This is 40, it's just focused on (rather than being a subpot like it was in Knocked Up) and framed with the whole "we just turned 40" thing. Funny People bridged the gap of Mann being a supporting character and a main character, what with the movie being broken into two parts and her presence dominating a majority of the second portion.
2. Male Maturation Issues
This is what most critics point out about Apatow movies: his stunted male leads. Andy is 40 and hasn't lost his virginity, the act that most people consider is the one that "makes you a man". Is it surprising he still collects and is protecting of his action figures? That he doesn't have a driver's license? The movie is basically him becoming an adult. If Andy is a child, Ben Stone is a teenager: focused on friends, smoking weed, naked chicks, and toilet humor. The movie is basically him becoming an adult.
Ira Wright is a young adult. He has his ish together enough to have an apartment and a career, but he's lost, confused. George Simmons is simultaneously a hero, a father figure, a mentor, and a boss. He's given the seat at the head of the table at Ira's Thanksgiving dinner. The movie is about him gaining the ability to make confident decisions, to feel comfortable walking on his own two feet.
Pete marks a type of regression. He is an adult. But he begins acting more and more like a kid. He plays games on the iPad. He eats cupcakes. When he and Debbie seem like they are about to break up, there's the scene where Pete is just CRAMMING hamburgers while his kids look on disgusted. When one of the kids questions him, Pete says he'll eat as many as he wants. By the end of the movie, Pete seems more...together. But the movie ends without showing us Pete has made any changes. It's the only Apatow movie to lack this type of closure. Andy sells his toys, gets married, has sex. Ben moves out of his stoner commune and into his own apartment, gets a job, reads the baby books, and demonstrates increased knowledge. He also stands up to Debbie and claims his place as the father of Alison's baby and as the partner of Alison. Ira finds the courage to chastise his father figure, to break away from his father figure, to realize his father figure isn't and was never perfect, and he improves as a comedian. When Ira and George meet again, it's as friends, in a more equal relationship. With Pete, we seriously have no security he has changed. He apologizes for being a dick...for like the 85th time in the movie. And he says he'll maybe try to sign Ryan Adams...
Does this mean the happy ending of This is 40 is actually a false happy ending?
1. Career progression
Every Apatow movie has its characters KEENLY aware of their career progression.
Andy opens the movie as the stockroom worker at a giant electronics store. As he develops as a person, throughout the movie, we see him promoted to the sales floor and to a floor manager. When Trish helps him sell his action figures, the goal is to earn enough money for Andy to start his own stereo store.
Both This is 40 and Funny People continue this pursuit of self-employment but each in its own way. Funny People has Ira as the least successful of his comedic friends. He's trying to do it alone, but is struggling. The movie is about his apprenticeship, climaxes with the sundering all apprentices must undergo if the are to become their own master, and concludes with the first steps of this self-mastery. This is 40 begins with Pete already in the "becoming a master" phase, with his apprenticeship and the sundering explained through exposition. Except he is narrow minded. He is selfish. We see this with dramatized with Pete's marriage. His wife wants him to stop eating cupcakes because she's concerned about his health: Pete continues to eat cupcakes. His family tells him the kind of music they like, and he turns it off and makes them listen to what he likes. Even though he sacrifices money to his father, and is sacrificing for his family, he feels he's a victim. That he HAS to sacrifice the money to his father, that he has to sacrifice for his family. That's why he acts out in his little ways: the cupcakes, the sitting on the toilet with the iPad for long periods of time, the childish games of "silence", shooting his wife down when she's trying to arouse him because he's so upset with his own problems. Pete's marriage, outlook, and career have not just stalled but started to erode, and we have to wonder: what's the relationship between his marriage, his outlook, and his career? Pete is in a precarious balance until...when? The Graham Parker album. When the album doesn't sell, the balance tips: Pete's career is crumbling, so then is outlook crumbles, and then his marriage goes to hell.
This is 40 literally ends with the "happy" couple discussing what Pete can do to improve his career: try to sign Ryan Adams. I guess Pete's willingness to try to sign Adam's is a "sign of change" that I said This is 40 lacked. But it really isn't as conclusive as the rest of the moments in Apatow's filmography.
Knocked Up is the least career-oriented of the four, at least from the perspective of the male lead. Ben is half-heartedly trying to do his own thing, is happy passively earning his money from an injury. It isn't until he begins EARNING money that we're supposed to see him as maturing. He's finally taken the first step of a type of apprenticeship. From the female perspective Knocked Up is just as career-oriented as the rest of the movies. Alison's mood, like Pete's, depends upon the status of her career. When she thinks her career is endager, she's a bitch to Ben. When it's going well, she is more receptive.
Look at Jason Segel's character "Jason" compared to Chris O'Dowd's "Ronnie". Both are fighting for Megan Fox. Which one wins? The one who is self-employed and successful? Or the one who is working for someone else?
I give "Progression" the nod over "Maturation" because even though Apatow's films have a horde of stunted male characters (both main and supporting), all the characters, male and female, main and supporting, stunted or totally mature, are the embodiments of how their careers are going.
Did I Like It:
No. It's too much like everything else for me. Is it bad? No. Not if we're judging it on its own merits. I even laughed sometimes. I liked moments. But it was too familiar to me. I feel like it's like...seeing a band in concert for the fourth time. The first time you go is amazing. You laugh at what the band says between songs. You are amazed by how they play extended solos on songs, so the song sounds completely fresh and new. They cover a song you never expected them to cover and it's awesome! The second time you go: it's still good, but you realize the band says the same thing between songs. They play the same solos, so what was fresh and new is familiar. They cover the same song. It's still GOOD. But is it as special? You go a third time and it's the same thing. The fourth time...
With that said, Apatow's films ARE unique. Something new is happening each time. The style has matured and developed. If the first two were more comedy than drama, the third and fourth are way more drama than comedy. It's not like going to the same concert four times. But that's what This is 40 felt like to me.
I still think Funny People is Apatow's best work. Is it the funniest movie he's made? No. But I think it is the most dynamic, and covers the most ground, has the largest emotional range, and is the least predictable.
This is 40 seemed...really...angry to me.
And I hate Pete. I'm happy for Leslie Mann at the end of the movie. But Pete was just...a gigantic asshole. What redeeming moment did he have? He could be fun and happy every now and then? We never see him...talk to his kids and apologize for all the stress HE HAS CAUSED. Debbie tries. She tries to change. She tries to get him to change. She tries to talk. She tries to seduce him. She tries and tries and tries and tries. And Pete is just...angry. And rude. And rarely concerned with other people. I hate him. It makes me sort of angry that he gets a pseudo-happy ending. I don't think he did anything to deserve it. By the end of the movie, I'm really not even sure if he knows how awful he really was?
I think the last scene is probably the stupidest last scene I've ever seen. IFFFFFF. IF. If it's meant to be a happy ending. If we're supposed to read it as "maybe Pete hasn't changed and is still an asshole? Maybe Ryan Adams will say no and Pete will be a sarcastic jerk to Debbie and the whole cycle will start again?" Because at the end of the movie: we really have no idea if Pete's business will succeed. Saying Ryan Adams is between labels isn't the same thing as singing Ryan Adams. I can't tell if it's just the most inconclusive and weak final scene ever, or if it's a subtle dramatization that Pete and Debbie aren't saved. And that's the actual commentary on being 40: you're between places and unsure of whether or not life is going to get better or if it's going to go to ruin. If it's the latter: awesome. But if it is the latter...I think it's too subtle.
I thought Megan Fox did a good job. The club scene really made me want Debbie to break up with Pete and go do her own thing.
The 2012 FilmEd book is coming out soon. Check out our 2011 book.