The Stream: There’s one subplot that feels shoehorned in and unnecessary.
The Big Screen: Such strong writing and a bold point-of-view from writer/director, Radha Blank.
The Final Bill: An unapologetically funny and thoughtful story that’s a real crowd pleaser.— Trip Fontaine
Director: Radha Blank
Writers: Radha Blank
Stars: Radha Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rating: R (for pervasive language, sexual content, some drug use and brief) nudity
Runtime: 2 hours
Sometimes there are films that come along that are surprising in how unassuming and effortless they are. This weekend a great “indie” comedy from a star-in-the-making, Radha Blank, is just that type of movie premiered on Netflix. It is called The Forty-Year-Old Version, and it was written, directed and stars Blank.
Although The Forty-Year-Old Version is her first feature film, Blank know exactly what this movie is about and how best to present it. She should since she has her hand in each pot and it seems autobiographical as well. In the film, Blank plays a character named Radha, who was once a promising, up-and-coming playwright in New York but her career has stalled, and now she’s knocking on forty. Radha struggles to get her plays produced and otherwise makes her rent by teaching a rowdy group of high school students about theater. One night, Radha unlocks what’s been stifling her creatively by spitting some raw rhymes and she decides she going to be a forty-year-old woman making a mixtape – seriously.
What is evident is that Blank knows New York and loves her corner of the city. Shot in black and white, the film has a feel of early Spike Lee. There is so much attitude and just cool, bravado that bursts through the screen. Blank portrays all of the funny moments well and there’s emotional depth too as she deals with getting older, loss and self-doubt. Some of the best scenes are when Radha is freestyling with a lot of gusto and wit. The themes that flow through about artistic vision, taking chances, and the temptation to compromise are handled well and make this funny film poignant.
I have a minor quibble about one subplot that I feel is unnecessary. I don’t begrudge it in the movie and I won’t spoil it here. If it is cut from the film, it would only be about 5 minutes, so it’s not that distracting and doesn’t ultimately detract from the enjoyment of the whole.
There is no reason not to watch The Forty-Year-Old Version. Get your box of popcorn and start this film now.