Sunday, December 23, 2012

This Is 40 - 2012

"This Is 40" - 2012
Dir. by Judd Apatow - 2 hrs. 14 min.

Red Band Featurette

by Clayton Hollifield

"This Is 40" is a better movie than my rating would indicate.  But my rating system has an over/under point: three stars means that I'd want to watch the film again at some point in the future.  And there's no way in Hell that I want to watch "This Is 40" again, even though I thought it was a pretty decent movie and I laughed all the way through.  But the subject matter was so uncomfortable to sit through that I will be content if I never see this film again, and even blissful when I can push it out of my mind entirely.

Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) reprise their characters from "Knocked Up" (and no, there wasn't a Seth Rogen sighting, as far as I noticed) here.  They're both turning forty (in the same week, even), and under a lot of stress.  Aside from the milestone birthday, Debbie's boutique is being stolen from (to the tune of $12,000), and Pete's record label is tanking, with pretty much everything riding on their next release. Their kids are constantly at each other's throats, and so are Pete and Debbie.  There are other subplots, but they exist pretty much just to buffer between the no-holds barred arguments that Pete and Debbie have with others and with one another.  If you've seen "Knocked Up," understand that this entire film is pretty much tonally either the argument that Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl have at the doctor's office (not the positive one, the one where they completely blow up at each other) or the moment where Pete gets torn down by Rogen's character at his own birthday party.  For two hours and fourteen minutes.

So let's get to the good stuff first, lest you think that I hated this thing wire to wire.  Pretty much everyone who has a small role absolutely kills their minute or two on screen.  Melissa McCarthy has a fantastic pair of foul-mouthed scenes (maybe the highlight of the film - reinforced by the fact that the blooper reel that runs during the credits is a take of her meeting with the school principal and Pete and Debbie, where neither Paul Rudd nor Leslie Mann can keep it together), Jason Segel's lothario trainer is great, both John Lithgow and Albert Brooks are great as the misguided fathers of Debbie and Pete (respectively).  The feud between Debbie's two boutique workers (Megan Fox and Charlyne Yi, who may or may not be playing the same character she played in "Knocked Up") is pretty good, and Debbie's scenes with each individually are hilarious.  I'm probably missing a few people, but literally everyone who has only a scene or two do a great job with their time.

But here's the problem for me: Pete and Debbie's relationship is absolutely toxic.  It may be a point of personal touchiness about this, but watching two people (and in the context of this movie, two parents) constantly unable to resist going for one another's throats in a very real way (and in front of their children, which isn't glossed over here) isn't entertainment.  It's not some guy looking around wide-eyed, and only half-sarcastically spitting out his catchphrase, "Awkward!"  For me, it's a nearly unbearable re-enactment of the worst parts of my childhood.  I'm not exaggerating to say that if all of the bit parts hadn't been so funny, I might have walked out on "This Is 40," just to preserve my sanity.  As it was, I felt dread in my stomach every time Pete and Debbie were together on screen.  So when I tell you that there's no way I would watch this film again, not under threat of torture or death, I mean it.  It was torturous at times to get through "This Is 40," and now I've got nothing left to lose.  And, unlike what the plot would like you to believe, my personal experience with matters like this left me no faith that this family would find a way to stay together through their troubles.  I didn't believe it during the film, and I didn't buy the ending (which probably has less to do with what was being presented on the screen than I'd like to admit).

I don't expect everyone to react in the same manner that I did to "This Is 40."  But it's fair to mention that if your childhood included a period of tumult, you might find this nearly as uncomfortable of a movie-going experience as I did.  Plus, I hate having to capitalize the "is" in "This Is 40," as it goes against all of my training in the writing arts.  Plus, there was a gout joke here while I'm currently limping around on a cane because of a gout attack.  So, Judd Apatow, perhaps you'd like to take some shots at my weight, or my hair color or something?  You could drive to my home, and wreck into my truck and not leave a note.  Do you want to knock my dog over?  Do you want to steal all of my spoons?  I mean, you've already done everything you can to make this film a miserable experience for me personally, there's got to be a way for you to top that.  All I can say in response is that I used a free movie ticket to see "This is 40," and that feels about right.

2.5 / 5 - Theatre

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