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The Forty-Year-Old Version is a rangy, laidback, one-woman-show type of film with an interesting tang of disillusionment. It comes from Radha Blank, whose work has ranged from off-Broadway stage plays to writing and producing the TV version of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It. Her debut feature is shot on black-and-white 35mm, in homage to early Lee, and of course the title riffs on Judd Apatow. It is a loosely autobiographical comedy inspired by a hip-hop cabaret persona she invented for herself called RadhaMUSprime.
Blank fictionalises herself as a New York playwright who was once feted on a “30 under 30 list” of smart up-and-comers. Now pushing 40, her career is on the skids, and she’s reduced to teaching drama to tricky teens in high school. Her agent and friend Archie (Peter Kim) still believes in Radha, and tries to sell her work to insufferably patronising big-cheese producer Josh Whitman (Reed Birney), but to the horror of everyone trying to work with her on a new play, an earnestly preachy drama about gentrification in Harlem, Radha has an idea of how to reinvent herself. She will become a rapper, turning her middle-aged angst into rhymes, and in doing so she begins a new relationship with a Bronx music producer, D (Oswin Benjamin). Radha has an awful habit of choking at the big moment, in an act of semi-deliberate or full-deliberate self-sabotage. Smoking weed before a rap showcase leads to disaster and the speech she gives at the first night of her play is something to watch between your fingers. This is a very unhurried film (I wondered if it might have been better to lose 20 or so minutes) but it has a distinctive language of its own, and a feel for the city. I liked the repeated gag about Radha’s ageing knees always cracking with almost any physical activity.
• In cinemas from Friday.
Source: The Guardian
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