Friday, August 9, 2013

“This is 40” or How Nihilism Plays Out in Comedy Today Too

For the past decade or more I have failed to see most of the comedy films that are being released. It is not that I don’t like comedies, I just seem to be out of step with the current popular trends. The other day I decided to try one out, one of these Judd Apatow films that seem so popular. I had known that they tend to rely on shock rather than humor and that they are crass fare, but this one was advertised as being more mature, so I gave it a go.

The first scene set the tone. It should have been a “turn off” moment, but I thought it might be a case of “the worst scene first” and stuck it out. At a certain point I realized that I wasn’t laughing and this wasn’t even a comedy anymore. At that point I was only there out of curiosity. What is our current cultural answer for lives as messed up as these?

“This is 40” is the study of a couple who are extremely messed up relationally. They fight. They hate each other. However, they also find ways and moments where they remember what it was that brought them together in the first place. As they hit mid-life, they decide to try and improve their lives, but can’t seem to do anything right.

Part of the problem is that they are completely un-self-aware. Their daughter blows up at them half-way through the film and uses the worst possible cuss words. Their analysis of the situation when they are alone later is, “Where the f--- did she hear that? We don’t f----n talk like that!”

The answer to my cultural curiosity was pretty disappointing. The resolution of the film has our couple deciding that it was a mistake to try and improve. They should simply be happy with their royally screwed up lives as they are. That is the happy ending. “If your life is unfulfilling and all your relationships are broken, you should just accept it because you can’t change.” And we know they are going to be at each other’s throats five minutes after the credits role, because that has been the trend the entire film.

(The "Not a recommendation" tag really applies here.  This movie has every possible offensive content.  Shock rather than humor is the path to laughs intended.)

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