Ten years ago, there’s no way Judd Apatow’s THIS IS 40 would have anywhere near the same impact on me that it does now. Hell, I’ve still got quite a few good years before I hit the big 4-0 as it is, but being married with two kids has opened me up to a world of new perspective that I didn’t have as a young, single guy with no one to be responsible for outside of myself. As a result, there’s a greater emotional resonance for in Apatow’s latest material about a married couple who face the daily struggles of providing for a family, while at the same time, still trying to hold onto some semblance of their individual dreams as well as battling through the annoyances of your significant other regularly in order to continue realizing why you picked to be with them for the rest of your life to begin with. This isn’t exactly escapism in any way, shape or form, as there’s quite a bit that you may recognize from your own family or relationships. However, that in-your-face sense of reality makes for some rather touching and poignant moments that, in the end, lead right back to the idea that no matter how much these people may piss you off, you still love them.
Paul Rudd stars as Pete, an independent record label owner coming up on his 40th birthday right around the same time as his wife Debbie (Leslie Mann). They’ve got a pair of daughters - one of which is caught right in her hormone-heavy teenage years - a mortgage, mounting financial difficulties, the pressures of making their family-owned businesses successful (Debbie has a boutique clothing shop), parental issues that have continued to get worse over the years, a lack of time for the passion they used to have and each other. There’s nothing exceptional about them. In fact, they seem quite normal by today’s standards of fucked-up being the new normal. But what makes THIS IS 40 most intriguing is its honest assessment of a relationship like this, peeling back the façade that’s put on for your family and friends that everything is okay all the time to understand that everyone has their issues at home. Some may be a bit more humorous - the elimination of any privacy while taking a shit, the nagging about the snacks one likes to consume (What is wrong with cupcakes anyway?), the inability to sneak a blowjob in with kids always around, farting in the bed – but it’s the questions about whether a relationship would have been viable if kids didn’t happen and the dealing with the fights and all of the lows of such a long-term pairing that ground THIS IS 40 in real feelings, emotions and struggles that people face but may be afraid to express.
Apatow manages to balance the drama and the comedy remarkably in creating a film that never feels dull. He will often leave you wondering what story it is that he’s trying to tell here, but that’s because we’ve also been conditioned to expect a certain structure in films. THIS IS 40 is a bit more organic in its flow, which can be meandering in moments, by simply allowing us to follow this family in their daily dealings, both good and bad. It’s a raw examination of married life, and while that doesn’t mean everyone’s relationships will mirror what transpires on-screen, I believe there is at least one aspect of what Pete and Debbie have going on that you can grab onto and relate to in whatever you may be experiencing, allowing the film to be much more meaningful than just a drama with some jokes regularly thrown in.
At a time when about 50% of marriages end in divorce, it’s refreshing to see a couple putting in the effort through the highs and lows to make their marriage work, not only for themselves but for their children. I personally know of far too many people that have just given up on their significant other rather than battling through the problems and the issues and the troubles to make it work. That is the threat to the sanctity of marriage. Marriage isn’t something that should be rushed into, or something you do because you feel obligated to or that society expects you to. Granted, that’s not saying that all marriages are perfect, or, for some of them, that divorce isn’t the right course. But in seeing some treat marriage as just another relationship that you can break from when things get tough, it’s encouraging to see Pete and Debbie, warts and all, fight to keep it together, because no matter how bad things may get at times, the one thing that never has changed is their love.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
Follow me on Twitter.