This is 40
For me, going to see a Judd Apatow movie is a mixed bag. Because they are generally so tasteless and profane, it is often agony to sit through them. On the bright side it’s always easy to write a review when I don’t like a movie.
What a surprise! While it’s still profane, and sometimes tasteless and juvenile, it is brilliantly written by Apatow, who also directed and produced, and comedically captures the lives of a couple entering midlife.
While it is advertised as a sequel to Knocked Up, one of the few Apatow movies I liked, it is a sequel only in that it follows the two subordinate characters out of Knocked Up, not the stars of that film.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) are both approaching their 40th birthdays. They have two children, Sadie and Charlotte (played by Apatow’s daughters, Maude and Iris Apatow). The Apatow children seem to have bright futures in front of them as actresses because their performances are spot on.
The dialogue among the four of them is funny, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes poignant. Rudd and Mann give fine performances, but I thought Mann’s sparkled brighter.
There is one scene in particular that stood out for me, one that should be shown in every law school for how to prepare a witness. Pete and Debbie are called in front of the school principal because of something that happened. The way they handle it is nothing short of brilliant.
On the downside, Apatow still throws in childish scenes that would have been better left out, like several with Pete sitting on the toilet. I fail to see the reason to show a character going to the bathroom in a movie. Everybody in the movie drops F bombs, although not as many as in other Apatow movies. And there are a couple of scenes of Debbie giving Pete oral sex.
But by and large these do not destroy what is a funny, highly entertaining film.
Nobody wants to tell the viewing audience what this is about before they buy their tickets. The synopsis by The Weinstein Company is completely silent about the main theme, only saying that “Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything – his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro) after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain.”
This implies that Pat did not belong in the mental institution. In fact Pat is seriously bipolar and probably shouldn’t have been released from the institution. The Weinstein Company goes on to say that this is just about Pat trying to rebuild his life and get back together with his estranged wife. That’s not what the movie is about.
This movie is about two people with mental illness that appears more serious than mere neurosis trying to find love despite their illnesses. But it’s not about Pat’s relationship with his wife, which is merely a McGuffin. The person with whom he finds himself involuntarily getting involved with is not Pat’s wife, but Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a girl he meets at a dinner party. Tiffany, while not as disturbed as Pat, has her problems, too.
This is a dark comedy about a serious subject. Cooper and Lawrence do themselves proud. In addition to her outstanding performance, Lawrence displays a body that was well hidden in The Hunger Games and Winter’s Bone. In this film she is as sexy an actress as one will see on the screen, especially when she takes stage in a form-fitting, steamy white outfit in the dancing finale.
It’s brilliantly directed by David O Russell, who also wrote the script based on a novel by Matthew Quick. Although overly long for a romcom, this is not your garden variety romcom because it tackles a serious subject in an entertaining manner. There are some real laughs. The dialogue is sometimes as quick as the dialogue between George Segal and Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class (1973), the first third of which is among the funniest films of all time.
Cooper gives a fine performance in a difficult role, but the one who really shines is Lawrence, who should be up for awards for this one. She nails it.