White Peoples’ Problems! This is 40 is Judd Apatow kvetching about where his lifestyle is now, embodied by the likes of Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Robert Smigel, John Lithgow and running on for an interminable length. With support, of course, by Chris O’Dowd, Peter Segel, Melissa McCarthy and Megan Fox as the hot babe who might be stealing from our 40-year old heroine’s cash register at her boutique business. Tied down with kids, lack of passion in the bedroom, economic concern of scaling down to a smaller house – did I miss anything? Impressive how much Apatow can pull you in and make you care even without a traditional plot. This is barely a story, it’s a snapshot, and yet we are besides ourselves laughing at things we know are true. Well, the West Coast WASP audience will have familiarity.
What you do get from this movie is… yikes!… a totally awkward sex scene that begins the movie, replete with loud banging in the shower. American movies and their embarrassing sex scenes – Geez! Pete (Rudd) confesses to consuming Viagra prior to sex play leaving Debbie insecure that she can’t get the real thing without her husband using a pill as an aid. This isn’t the end to their sex at 40, as shown with a later scene of them trying to go at it before they have to drive the kids to school. What a big house, by the way!
The thing about being 40 is that you do everything you can to act 30 again. What’s the more serious recipe to success at 40? Pete and Debbie as parents do what they can to minimize fights. Set in their ways, such promises don’t last long when spouses constantly tend to one-up each other once something goes wrong. “Didn’t I tell you this was going to happen!” shrieks Debbie, which I must have heard to some variance a half dozen times.
I got over this kind of white peoples’ problems movies a long time ago, even though I am white myself. I grew up a high-strung white boy in a toxic family where Apatow-like fights took place all the time. I took a permanent vacation from it and transcended it. I achieved this by marrying an Indian woman who is brilliant and yet peaceful, bright, optimistic. Not that we have any shortage of steam and passion in our private hours. My life has a grandeur and happy elevation that is unparalleled by my white brothers. Plus, I get to travel the world to rare far-off spots. I with certainty give my endorsement to marry Asian in general, even if that’s a slap in the face to white women and a shock to the system. If you’re bitching at what I’m say, then well, at least I’m still happy.
Oh my indulgence aside, I return to this movie to appreciate it as well as to think about it. Some dialogue encounters of a family counting tit for tat are startlingly well-written by Apatow (hail the deadbeat grandpa scene!) You can’t get this stuff from other movies. There are certain indulgences like long-running scenes of physical trainer Segel flattering his older female clients, or O’Dowd tripping at the tongue about how he tried his best. The riffs on TV’s “Lost” are endless, but the final “Mad Men” punchline is priceless.
Also on hand, you get the best work by Albert Brooks (“Lost in America,” “Broadcast News”) in years, doing shameless pity-me shtick but to touching vulnerable degrees. John Lithgow as the selfish long absentee family member is doing severe character study drama. Rich comedy often has poignant drama to it, and Brooks and Lithgow brought that. Going back to center with Rudd, he looks happy as long as he is riding his bike or stuffing his mouth with cupcakes. Mann is a good-looking 40, and maybe looks a bit younger when she’s dropping moves on the dance floor. That’s the key to her happiness, by feelin’ 30 again instantly.
134 Minutes. Rated R.
ADULT COMEDY / LAFF RIOT / WEEKEND VIEWING DEBAUCHERY
Film Cousins: “Mother” (1996); “The 40-Year Old Virgin” (2005); “Knocked Up” (2007); “Funny People” (2009).