This is 40 is about a married couple, Debbie and Pete, both of whom are turning 40. They are trying to manage their own businesses, their tenacious daughters and disappointing patriarchs while simultaneously avoiding an early death and mountains of debt.
Debbie (Lesley Mann) is the same control freak from Knocked Up, only now she has hit 40 which seems to send her utterly loopy. Her irrationality and inability to let go of the tiniest things sends her marriage to Pete spiralling downhill, not helped by Pete (Paul Rudd) being a complete asshole to her all the time. It’s a relationship we are all familiar with, either we recognise parts in ourselves or have seen others argue the same way. The two children certainly don’t help matters as Sadie (Maude Apatow), the eldest, is devoting every second of her spare time to watching Lost while Charlotte (Iris Apatow) is more preoccupied in winding her big sister up and talking about periods. With Sadie and Charlotte screaming at each other, Pete and Debbie screaming at each other it’s a wonder this family made it this far. That’s because underneath it all they love each other really as demonstrated when Pete and Debbie get insanely high off a marijuana cookie when they go away for the weekend.
The constant strain the bickering has on their relationship is only made worse by Pete’s incompetent and lazy Father, wonderfully represented by Albert Brooks, who has recently decided to have three children. His blood pressure won’t allow him to work so who has to pay for the children? Pete does. That coupled with a failing record company and a $12’000 theft from Debbie’s store its amazing this family can look as polished as they do, their debt is worsening and their relationships are failing. Will the revival of Graham Parker and The Rumour save them? Somehow, I don’t think so.
As bleak and depressing as it sounds, we are dealing with a Hollywood movie here directed, written and co-produced by Judd Apatow so it’s really not all that bad. There certainly are some laugh-out-loud moments, mainly from the ever funny Rudd and the family dynamic is so excruciatingly real you find yourself gritting your teeth and pulling your hair out as they endlessly argue with each other. Lesley Mann is almost too shrill at times as she wails and whines her way through the final third of the film, don’t get me wrong she plays Mom really well, especially as its her own two children she is acting with, I just found after 2 hours of her my brain started seeping out of my ears as I was inwardly yelling ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP!’
Rather than using the families debts as a definitive plot point, Judd focusses more on the family dynamic, the relationships forged and broken and the rekindling of a once raging fire. The debt is merely representative of the hurdles of married life. I especially enjoyed the scenes where Debbie is trying to rebuild her relationship with her father (John Lithgow). It’s touching and shows a real caring, emotional side to Debbie’s personality that is occasionally absent from any interaction with her own family. I dread to think, if us Brits had a hold of such a bleak story, it would be so wrist-slittingly depressing it would have made This Is England look like a Disney movie.
The strength of the cast plays greatly to its success as Jason Segal, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd and Lena Dunham (a nod to all you GIRLS fans) manage to ease the monotonous and lengthy script and with a final cameo appearance from Greenday’s Billie Joe Armstrong the names are enough to get you interested, although, this is no Movie 43. Its long, it drags in places, but what Apatow film doesn’t? The 40 Year Old Virgin clocked in at 133 minutes and we all love that movie don’t we? Yes, we do.