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From the outside, Debbie (Leslie Mann: ParaNorman) and Pete (Paul Rudd: The Perks of Being a Wallflower) have it made. A big house, two adorable kids and lots of luxury playthings. But look a little closer and you see the cracks.
Debbie is having trouble dealing with her fading youth. Turning 40 years old has made her a neurotic mess. She fights with Pete, worries about their daughters and constantly seeks validation.
Pete is head of a record label that produces only obscure acts. He loves his job, but the business is tanking and taking the family savings with it. This doesn’t stop his loans to his mooch father (Albert Brooks: Drive).
After 15 years of marriage, Pete and Debbie love each other, but they don’t like each other very much. Debbie nags, Pete whines and the kids exacerbate.
Debbie’s solution is change. She bans electronics, tosses out all the gluten and sugar, dabbles in Eastern medicine and makes every conversation a mini therapy session. Her family’s reaction is predictable: Her oldest daughter hates her, her youngest longs for sugar and Pete checks out even further.
Can this couple get their lives together? Or is 40 the breaking point.
This Is 40 is a crass, funny, uncomfortable and ultimately honest film. It’s billed as a “sort-of-sequel to Knocked Up,” but there’s no need to see that one to enjoy this slice of American misery.
The film is writer/director Judd Apatow’s (Funny People) most satisfying film in years, and it’s apparent that much of the material cuts close to the bone for the filmmaker.
Mann is excellent as a woman on the verge of a mental breakdown. She stays on high alert as if waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The essential element is Rudd, whose easygoing charm keeps Pete from being the villain. Imagine a man who plays fast and loose with his family’s finances and mopes in every interaction with them. Rudd’s floppy hair and little-boy smile save you from screaming at the screen, “leave him already!”
This Is 40 is a film that doesn’t have any answers but desperately wants to find them. Will Pete and Debbie still be together at 50? Probably, but they’ll only be happy a few months out of the year. It’s funnier that way.