Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday May 22, 2020 


The lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) a few years after the events of Knocked Up (2006) are anything but tranquil. They face challenges of parenting, loss of romance, financial woes - not to mention dysfunctional families. These stresses are exacerbated as they both approach their 40th birthday.

Review by Louise Keller:
It has been five years since Judd Apatow's Knocked Up, whose honest depiction of a mismatched couple and the chaos that resulted from an unexpected pregnancy brought forward many home truths from the ridiculous to the profound. Similarly, This Is 40 addresses real issues and emotions, taking a milestone birthday to examine sex, love and commitment - as well as the relevance of parents and the problems surrounding growing children. With the action focusing this time on other characters introduced in the 2007 film, the result is more of side-quel, rather than a sequel. Length aside, it works beautifully. This is Apatow's forte: he writes about what he knows and it smells of truth. Crass-coated, emotionally raw, highly observant and very funny, the film tackles issues we recognise in our everyday lives, bundled enticingly with highly likeable, credible characters.

The steamy action begins in the shower, where Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) are having hot sex. Until things turn cold, with Pete's revelation that he has taken Viagra to give his wife a turbo charge for her birthday. Bad idea. Sexual attraction is one of the film's key themes, recurring at various times throughout in different forms. Debbie worries that Pete is no longer attracted to her, despite reassurances from her lustful trainer (Jason Segel) and advances from a stranger in a bar later in the film, when she is at her most vulnerable. Giving your husband oral sex while 8 and 13 year old daughters are screaming outside the locked bedroom door is hardly ideal.

Not surprisingly, finances are part of the strain, stemming from Pete's record label (largely due to Pete's uncommercial personal music choices) as well as missing funds from Debbie's dress boutique. (Sexy Megan Fox and quirky Charlyne Yi play her employees, who are potentially raiding the till.) Albert Brooks is suitable pathetic as Pete's parasite father, who instills guilt to prompt his son to provide ongoing financial support to sustain his young family. Even the Jewish card is thrown in for good measure. On the flip side, John Lithgow adds value as Debbie's absent father.

It is the relationship between Pete and Debbie that holds the film's jewels, as they embrace new goals to lead happier, healthier lifestyles, adding more passion, family time, lessening the importance of electronic equipment. Not so easy. Rudd and Mann play their roles beautifully, while Apatow's daughters Iris and Maude are fresh and natural. Maude is especially commendable as 13 year old Sadie, whose face is aghast when her parents suggest she builds a fort or plays with sticks (as they did as children) instead of indulging in computer, iphone or ipad time. What an accurate reflection of our times! My favourite scene is during one of Pete and Debbie's rows, when they talk to each other in therapist-speak.

The film plays too long and would benefit from a generous edit, although it is clear to see why Apatow had difficulty chopping it. There is a lot of good material. Nonetheless, there is much to enjoy in this likeable and accessible film that mirrors today's attitudes as it explores the pressures facing couples and their families.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Buried beneath the outer layer of crude, vulgar Judd Apatow is a sensitive, sharp writer wanting to get out; he observes human nature with clear, almost sadistic X ray vision which lashes our fallibilities with a ferocious satire in This is 40. If it weren't for the financiers, the film would have ended up a black comedy, possibly a film noir for the 21st century in which the suburban trimmings of middle American families are ripped off and the black hole they straddle is exposed. All these nice people going through hell, not knowing how to stop teaching their kids repeating their cycle of angst.

But that was not to be. This is 40 is much like Apatow's other crudely funny, gross and overplayed comedies in which sex is central but is stripped of any niceties, even between loving couples, to the point that sexuality is nothing more than acts of shallow pleasure and talk of sex is always dirty. What's love got to do with it, indeed. So it doesn't work for me on that level and for that reason, but there's more: I also dislike the characters and he and I don't share the same sense of humour. And it plays too often like a series of sketches.

I should say, to be fair, that at the media preview, critics young and old laughed a lot. Conspicuous by my silence, I kept wondering whether Americans are really like this or is Apatow trying to make a caricature. Maybe some Americans are (none I like to visit), but I still don't believe the characters - not because they are vile but because they are presented as two dimensional, forced, repetitious and bereft of any genuine feelings that might moderate their behaviour.

This is 40 ends up for me as a tour de force of tastelessness wrestling with profoundly serious issues it cannot hope to contain. On that score, at least, it has the makings of a shocking black comedy, as spiteful as Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf and as pain-driven. It just needs to be made on a smaller budget with less movie artifice. It would be devastating.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

THIS IS 40 (MA15+)
(US, 2012)

CAST: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Megan Fox, Chris O'Dowd, Melissa McCarthy, Lena Dunham, John Lithgow, Albert Brooks, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow

PRODUCER: Judd Apatow. Barry Mendell, Clayton Townsend

DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow

SCRIPT: Judd Apatow

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phedon Papamichael

EDITOR: David L. Bertman, Jay Deuby, Brent White

MUSIC: John Brion

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jefferson Sage, Anael Bonsorte

RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 17, 2013

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020