- Movie Rating -

The 40-Year-Old Version (2020)

| December 9, 2020

I am utterly uninterested in stories that try to reflect my own experience, to pander what the author thinks will keep me awake.  I live with me 24/7, why do I need to see myself?  I like stories about other people, other cultures, new talents, new voices, stories specific and new and deeply personal.  That’s the greatness of Rahda Blanks’ The 40-Year-Old-Version, this year’s Sundance darling and a film that reminds me of the kinds of fresh indie experiences of the early 90s that made me fall in love with off-Hollywood cinema in the first place.

The story in Blanks’ comedy-drama is her own, and its not what you expect.  The normal tapestry for this kind of story is a young twenty-something who is in danger of squandering their potential, but instead this is about middle-age regret.  Blanks’ character – named Rahda – is just days away from turning 40 and her once promising career as a playwright has sputtered and stalled.  Years ago, she won a prestigious Promising 30 under 30 award but she has yet to live up to that promise.  These days her mother is dead, her diet shakes aren’t working, and the prospects for getting her new play off the ground seem to have died on the vine.  Day-to-day, the best she can hope for is that the students in her class don’t kill each other and that the defecating homeless guy across the street from her apartment doesn’t scream at her first thing in the morning.

Her world seems to be a series of dying dreams and wasted opportunity, but then one night she finds an unexpected outlet in laying down rhymes about period bloat, bad knees and irritations that forty-somethings are heir to.  The squeaky wheel of her prospects begins to turn when she hooks up with a morose young music producer (fantastically played by newcomer Oswin Benjamin) on Instagram who recognizes what she has.  The message that pours out of her newfound talent is a defense against the self-pitying stories about black poverty and miscellaneous woe-is-me regurgitation that everyone seems to want to hear.   Hers is a flowing narrative of middle-aged-crazy, about wasted opportunities and cosmic irritations that young people would recognize, but, they’ll learn.

What is most engaging about The 40-Year-Old Version is that it isn’t polished.  It isn’t slick.  It’s flows with the kind of messiness of real life, and with the onset of middle age.  It is proof that there are just as many potentially great stories to be told about 40 as there are about 20.  Blanks’ film is raw, real and deeply personal.  I like that.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2020) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized