The Forty-Year-Old Version Review
In the present era of reboots and remakes it's easy to conclude that The Forty-Year-Old Version was a gender-swapped version from the 2004 Steve Carell comedy — however, that's far than the reality. For Radha Blank's semi-autobiographical directorial debut has more in common with the indie filmmaking of Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, early Woody Allen and Spike Lee. Similar to Frances Ha, Manhattan and She's Gotta Have It, this film puts the experience of the artist as the central focus of the story and has New York playing an integral support character, with the story told through a black and white lens.
Blank who is a scriptwriter for The TV adaptation of She's Gotta Have It, pays homage to Lee by strewn the action with numerous stills and segment-length interviews with Harlem locals , as well as breaking through the fourth wall. Yet her viewpoint is unique. Hollywood does not often give plus-sized Black women who are over 40 to play the lead in their own film or even the romantic lead. It's refreshing to watch the director who plays a more heightened self-image, provide an intriguing and appealing character to cheer for.
It's never been more amazingly clever that in the scenes where Radha is spitting bars in the alter-ego of her character, RadhaMUSPrime.
Movie-Radha, whose artist mother died just a year before and she's just looking to get her stage play, 'Harlem Ave", produced. She's torn between being in her true self and choosing the Black theatre company that won't be able to pay her in a timely manner or letting the liberal colonialism of white directors and producers determine the lens through which she's supposed to depict her audience. The conflict within her is evident throughout the film that includes awkward rehearsals and painful fundraising events to gruelling moments with her controversial drama students. There are also the secondary characters that require Radha in her problems: Oswin Benjamin is quietly charming as her music producer her love interest D as well as Peter Kim delivers the real talking points as her long-suffering her best friend and agent Archie with a subtle heft.
However, the film isn't more enthrallingly clever then when Radha is in the studio spitting bars with her alter-ego RadhaMUSPrime. With tracks such as "Poverty Porn and 'FYOV' Radha is a formidable layer of lyrical wit an experience that will really nourish the soul.