by rantywoman

There are lots of things about Judd Apatow’s new comedy “This Is 40” that don’t add up. Some are annoying but negligible, like the movie’s asking us to believe that December in Los Angeles is a season for shorts and backyard pool parties. Others are annoying but par for the Hollywood course, like its asking us to believe that a couple with creative, unstable careers (like owning an indie record label and a clothing boutique) and no outside financial support can nonetheless drive a Lexus and a BMW, afford personal trainers, eastern healers, and therapists, and live in the kind of house (easily three million dollars, even in a down market) in which every room is a tasteful mélange of statement-piece furniture, imported rugs, fresh cut flowers, original art, and colorful, handcrafted children’s toys.

Some implausibilities, however, deserve some dissection. Let’s take those children. They are eight and thirteen. Their parents, Pete and Debbie, are turning forty. That means they had their first child at twenty-seven. You don’t see that very often in people with three million dollar houses, unconventional careers and no trust funds.


Apatow’s films are famous for their scatology (amply represented in “This Is 40”) and they can also be reliable vehicles for Hollywood fantasies about beauty, love, and the refusal to grow up. But in “This is 40,” Apatow seems to be really trying to say something profound about marriage and the difficulties of getting older. The problem is it’s almost as if he’s a fourteen-year-old imagining what it’s like to be forty (“that’s like, really old—but at least you can have nice cars!”) and the result is that the movie is a stunning misrepresentation of life at any stage. This is not the way we live now. These people are outliers.

Which actually makes perfect sense. Peter and Debbie are not characters, really, but versions of the real-life Mr. and Mrs. Apatow (Debbie is played by Leslie Mann, Apatow’s wife, and Sadie and Charlotte are played by their real daughters.) Mann and Apatow are now forty and forty-five, respectively. They had their first daughter, Maude, when they were twenty-five and thirty. Since Apatow was by then a successful writer and producer in Hollywood, there’s no reason to believe they weren’t already living in a three thousand square-foot post-and-beam and well into their second kitchen remodel. And though no one’s suggesting the movie should have been called “These are the Apatows at 40” (though that does have a promising, Pixar-like ring to it, as though it were a movie about squirrels suddenly faced with high cholesterol) the collectivist overtones of a title like “This Is 40” are singularly disingenuous. Because this isn’t forty. It’s more like fifty—for the one per cent.

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