The Forty-Year-Old Version sees actress/writer Radha Blank playing a version of herself as a playwright – who had success ten years earlier with the ’30 Under 30′ program for some of the brightest young stars around, but now is about to turn 40 and still hasn’t quite made it.
In order to achieve her goal, her play, Harlem Ave, has to pass muster with stuffy fusspot Josh Whitman (Reed Birney), introduced to her by lifelong friend Archie (Peter Kim). But if writing a play isn’t going to give her the big break she’s been waiting for at this point in her life, then how about trying to re-establish herself as a rapper? Yes, that’s quite a change, but she was great in rap battles at school – even though that was over over half a lifetime ago – and she’s hoping that young producer D (Oswin Benjamin) can make it happen.
But what’s her rapper name? RadhaMUSPprime… which has to be said like “Optimus Prime”. Yes, she has to explain that to a few people.
In worrying about hitting the big 4-0, we first see her listening to a couple next door doing the business, because she isn’t getting any… and then throughout comes random vox pop interviews with a number of people who get across the message that the age is not such a big deal.
In fact, I still remember in 2000, when a colleague told me he was 46. I asked, “Does life begin at 40?” He looked up and to the side, and paused for a while… and then said, “Nah, it’s shit!” 😀
The Forty-Year-Old Version has some great comedic moments such as when Radha doesn’t quite make it to the bus before it closes its doors… and she pleads with the driver because she’s already running late. He opens the door and she tells him positively, “You made your mother proud”, to which he retorts, “My mother’s dead!” Embarrassed, she lightly taps him on the shoulder in consolation… and he sneers because he doesn’t like being touched. EEK!
And then when she reaches her destination, she just wants to nip off the bus, but several disabled people want to get on and it’ll take some time… so, the snooty driver exclaims to everyone how Radha doesn’t want to let them on(!)
Elsewhere, she has a young student, Avery, coming on to her after she teaches a class. After she tells him it’s not appropriate, he replies, “I turn 20 in two weeks”, and she counters, “I bet you do… all over.”
There’s a side plot where Radha is still dealing with the death of her mother, who passed away a year ago, whilst both her and her brother haven’t got round to sorting her house out; and as an aside or two, this film is in black-and-white with occasional colour moments and, occasionally, some breaking the fourth wall, as Radha looks to the camera, just at the moment when it needs it the most.
Overall, the first hour of The Forty-Year-Old Version is great with some very sharp and clever writing with some smutty humour, and putting us in the realm of cringe comedy such as the original version of The Office (before Ricky Gervais stopped being funny), and Louie (before Louis CK outed himself as a groper). However, after that, it does drag a bit. 90-95 minutes would ‘wrapped’ (pun not intended) things up better. Oh, and I’d definitely put the subtitles on, especially during the rap battles.
There’s also a couple of mid-credits scenes…
Check out the trailer below:
Running time: 124 minutes
Release date: October 9th 2020
Format: 2.39:1 (Super 35)
Director: Radha Blank
Producers: Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Radha Blank, Jordan Fudge, Rishi Rajani, Jennifer Semler, Lena Waithe
Screenplay: Radha Blank
Radha: Radha Blank
Archie: Peter Kim
D: Oswin Benjamin
Elaine: Imani Lewis
Josh Whitman: Reed Birney
Julie: Welker White
Rosa: Haskiri Velazquez
Joy: Peggy J Scott
Lamont: Jacob Ming-Trent
Waldo: Antonio Ortiz
Kamal: TJ Atoms
D’s Boy: Corwin C Tuggles
Stacey: Stacey Sargeant
Janelle: Mina Joo
Forrest: Andre Ward
Avery: Ashlee Brian
Jaime: Meghan O’Neill
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.