Movie Review: This is 40.

By Lisa Sugarman

Now I’d like to think that at this age and stage of the game (somewhere in my 40s is all you need to know), I can consider myself many things. So let’s go with the obvious first. At this moment I’m a columnist. I mean, duh. Less obvious, but way more important, I’m a mother and a wife. I’m also a landscaper, head chef, housecleaner, language arts, math, social studies, science, and foreign language tutor, anger management specialist, financial analyst, waste disposal technician, tech support rep, mediator, amateur electrician. The range is broad. And I’m pretty sure that your business card reads a lot like mine.

What I am not, however, is a movie reviewer. (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?) But since I’m a big fan of trying on lots of different hats, I think this is the perfect time and place to give it a whirl. After all, I’ve got a captive audience just hanging on my every word (yeah, as if). Plus, the movie I’m talking about is totally relevant to what’s on my mind anyway. One disclaimer though before I dive in… I’m a Joey to movie reviewing (otherwise known as a newbie), so I’m purposely setting the bar low here to ensure that failure is less painful. (For me, not you.)

So let me cut right to the chase …

If you haven’t seen Judd Apatow’s newest side-splitter This is 40 yet, see it. See it now. I mean stop doing whatever you’re doing, find it, and watch it. Alright, strike that. Finish reading the column, then watch it. I need as much readership traction as I can get.

In a nutshell, This is 40 is a deliriously funny, albeit, at times, self-indulgent window into the mid-life crisis of Pete and Debbie, a married couple turning 40 and fighting it every step of the way.

It’s your typical gratuitous comedy. Most of it is over the top, exaggerated humor, (a lot like Superbad) but the relatability is so strong that it manages, even in spite of its kookiness, to give you something to connect with on some level.

The film is such a hysterical and often painful rendering of what so many marriages evolve into once we hit our 40s, that if you’re anywhere within that 40-something range you’ll relate to the movie somehow. If you’ve been married awhile, have any number of kids, and haven’t fired off one cohesive sentence to your spouse in the last 12 months, then this is the movie for you.

A quick run-down of the plot: Instead of embracing their 40th birthdays, Pete and Debbie are mired in a mid-life crisis with unruly kids, crushing debt, and an overhanging cloud of mutual annoyance. Pete’s record label is failing and Debbie just can’t come to terms with her aging body. The entire movie is a comedy of errors. Which, when you think about it, is what most of our lives are like at that stage. Maybe not quite as farfetched, but close enough that we can identify with the sense that we’re all constantly in motion, forever running on the same little wire hamster wheel but never really getting that far.

Like Pete and Debbie, most of us in this stage of life don’t have three seconds to ourselves (not even in the bathroom, sadly). Many of us actually, secretly, relish opportunities to go to Market Basket and grocery shop alone, pathetic as that may be. (Ok, maybe that’s just me.) And every last one of us is desperate to keep The Flame burning white hot (winky, winky), but we’re all just too damn tired to stoke it.

And that’s the tie-in for me. That relatability. That’s why I was so compelled to get all Gene Siskel on you. Because it occurred to me while I was all but wetting my pants laughing during this movie, that so much of it was my life. And if so much of it was my life, then so much of it has to be yours, too.

So this time next week, Dave and I will trade in our Crystal Anniversary marker (that’s 15 for those of you, like me, who had no clue) for the big Two-Oh. We’re trading up to the China Anniversary. Yep, 20 years. Add it all up, and it amounts to two kids, two dogs, two Siamese fighting fish, two hamsters, one ball Python (not sure what Dave was thinking with that one), one guinea pig, countless houses and jobs, at least as many milestones and crises, and one helluva beautiful ride.

It’s called a labor of love for a reason, kind of like my yoga practice is called a practice— because it’s never a finished work. And it’s not supposed to be. Just like life is always a work in progress.

So when I watched this movie, blowing bits of popcorn out of my nose because I was laughing so hard, and I looked over at Dave, doubled over and laughing just as hard, I realized that this quirky little movie just summed up our entire life together. And we both felt it. And it was beautiful. We laughed at the good, we laughed at the bad, and we pissed our pants at the ridiculous. Because life is messy; life smells (mostly just after we run); life is harrowing; life is blissful; life is exhausting; life is infuriating; life is invigorating; life is beautiful. And that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. And Apatow nails it in This is 40.

Because it’s at these big mile markers, when we can pause for a second and glance back at how far we’ve come, and we can say ‘I love you’ and still mean it, then we know we’ve got something real.

So, ‘I love you,’ babe. It’s been one helluva ride.

(Now you can go watch the movie. Go on, go.)

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at OR read her blog at


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