Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: The Forty-Year-Old Version

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Copyright: Netflix. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Re-inventing yourself is no small feat, even bigger a challenge if you’re halfway through life and find yourself in an already established career. The Forty-Year-Old Version looks to provide a glimmer of hope, though. Hope that you can change your lifestyle, your career is not set in stone, the message from this Netflix original is clear. A failing drama teacher decides to reinvent herself as a rap artist. It’s a story that, for better or worse, I’ve seen rather frequently over the past few years, but it’s one that hasn’t been articulated in a way that strikes me as either interesting or fascinating. From Hugh Grant charming his way through The Rewrite to the rather asinine mundanity of I Used To Go Here, a film about a place our leading character used to go. The Forty-Year-Old Version, then, knocks it out of the park, a struggling playwright trying to capture the big break artists crave.  

Shot in black and white and set in New York (because of course it is), The Forty-Year-Old Version manages to succeed in crafting a charming narrative thanks to a strong leading performer. Radha Blank’s performance as Radha is great. The regular artist trying to fit in with the irregular, often strange performers that surround her. Blank is a tremendous lead, and for a debut starring role, this sets a very high bar for how her later career should form. She shows depth that some of the greatest leading performers struggle with, brevity and weight to her words and later her lyrics, it’s an articulate, well-formed performance that should have no trouble connecting with audiences. 

It’s a film about finding your talent at the turn of your middle age, something I assume happens to thousands of people across the globe. You’re never too old to turn talent into something bigger, and better. A charming message that the film nails with maturity, and it’s presented to us in a thoroughly engaging, poignant manner. There are, of course, a few things I would change, but they feel rather slight in the face of such a strong and overwhelmingly creative feature debut. Blank directs, writes, and stars in a love letter to creativity in New York. It’s a Woody Allen flick without the shackles of romance, instead, it dives deeper into its characters, the leading role is such a charming, infectiously enjoyable one, it’s hard not to be taken away on the wave of optimism and creativity on display.   

A film for the individual finding who is hurtling towards a midlife crisis, The Forty-Year-Old Version resonates far more than it should, especially since I’m two decades away from potential crisis. It’s a charming story, with a competent leading character that goes from fish out of water to finding peace with her lifestyle. A wholly engaging piece that delves into underground rap battles, and a tug of war contest between a risky, new opportunity and an already established, but floundering career. It’s intensely enjoyable, and one of the few releases Netflix can be proud of.