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Film Review: The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

The Forty-Year-Old Version - credit: Netflix

IMDB Link: The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)
Director: Radha Blank
Writer: Radha Blank
Stars: Radha Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin

Synopsis: Radha is a down-on-her-luck NY playwright, who is desperate for a breakthrough before 40. Reinventing herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime, she vacillates between the worlds of Hip Hop and theater in order to find her true voice.

With a lot of festival coverage over the past month, I had missed this one when it was first circulating. However, with all the great buzz it was getting and the nominations it got at the Gotham awards, it was time to finally stick this one on. I am glad to report that the positive buzz this received was warranted, as this is such a great film.

I am always impressed when someone takes on the challenge of writing, directing and starring in their own project, and that is exactly what Radha Blank has done. This is a case, however, that feels like it needed her involvement at every point possible. Her work is shown clear, from the clever screenplay to her performance on screen. She may be playing a version of herself, but she still has to have that charisma and strong acting and she does a great job.

This is not just a one-woman show though, as everyone around her has fun with the material and truly cares about the project. It could have easy for Peter Kim to play Archie in a stereotypical manner, but that was not the case here. Even all the child actors here are superb, with Radha Blank bringing out the best in each of their performances.

Normally, I am critical of why a creative choice is made to release a film strictly in black-and-white. However, for The Forty-Year-Old Version, I found the black-and-white use to be effective and incredibly clever. This is a story that focuses on diversity, and the filter only adds impact to that story. The area is enhanced by the filter as well, allowing the more run-down locations to look as visually strong as the city sequences. The film in general is stunning to look at, and I am not sure it would pop as much with the colour in play.

The story feels simple in presentation, and I was worried that the film would go down a predictable pathway. However, there was a lot of humour throughout that helped steer the film away from being predictable and boring. Not only that, but I absolutely adored the ending. It could have gone down the cliche Hollywood route, but Radha Blank did not do that. She kept with her heart and used that moment to make a big statement, which ends the movie on such a high.

Considering this is the first major film that Radha Blank has worked on, she is a sensation. She wrote a fantastic script, gave a fantastic performance, and directed a fantastic film on any standard. This is a story anyone will be able to connect to and enjoy, and I would recommend anyone checking this one out.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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