Review by Dan Skip Allen
Over the years, movies about people having midlife crises have been quite prevalent, but not many have dealt with the black experience. The Forty-Year-Old Version is a take on The 40-Year-Old Virgin, starring Steve Carell, which is about a middle-aged white guy, but this film is a much different version of a midlife crisis film.
Radha Blank does quadruple duty as writer, director, producer, and star in The Forty-Year-Old Version. She's an out of work playwright moonlighting as a teacher. She's trying to give teenagers a platform to write their own play through a class at their school while also trying to get some inspiration herself. Lamont (Jacob Ming-Trent) helps her with her runes while Archie (Peter Y. Kim), her agent, is skeptical about her newfound gift.
Radha Blank is basically playing herself, but any middle-aged woman can relate to a lot of what she's going through. She has problems with her looks and body. Any aging man or woman can relate to this. Stretching and sagging and balding are all things that come with age. Self-confidence is another thing that can be hard at times as well. Everybody thinks they are meant for something better even those who have success and fame and adulation. In her case, she definitely thinks she's better then what her life has given to her at this point. Sometimes though people have to realize age is just a number.
The budget for this film was 26 million dollars. Blank used all of that money filming in and around New York City. The cinematography is breathlessly realized in black and white by Eric Branch (Clemency). The black and white extenuates the streets and people perfectly. This was a bold decision by Blank and it paid off. Some films can't pull off the black and white, but this film definitely can. It almost plays as a character in the film. In a way, everything she has to deal with is black and white.
Even though rap isn't for everybody, it plays a huge role in this film. It gives a voice to Blank and others. The script was written so subtly to use this aspect of the character. This was her way to express herself. Rap is an outlet for a huge base of people in this country. It was the perfect tool to make this woman come to life.
This film, small as it is, has gotten a platform on Netflix. It premiered at this past Sundance Film Festival and they won a bidding war for it. It speaks to women and men of all sexes creeds and religions. Go find your avenue and ride it until it makes you happy. The Forty-Year-Old Version should be seen by as many people as possible. Brava to Radha Blank for making this amazing inspiring film.
The Forty-Year-Old Version is now streaming on Netflix.