Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

Radha Blank’s highly entertaining ‘The Forty-Year-Old- Version’ reviewed by Queerguru’s Janet Prolman


“The Forty-Year-Old- Version“ is a highly entertaining film written, directed by, and starring Radha Blank. The title, a play on words (remember “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin?”), signals that despite its heavy subtext of the sexism, racism, and ageism in the theater world, the tone and delivery are not without humor and a bit of spoofing,

The 40-year-old is Radha, a semi-autobiographical lead character who was named one of the “30 Under 30” rising playwrights/performers but has yet to spread her wings around the right project and find success. She’s been writing and teaching and trying to make the connections. Now her friend/agent Archie (Peter Kim) has hooked her up with a big-time producer, Josh Whitman (Reed Birney), but can Radha accommodate his tone-deaf demands for changes to her message? Although gay, “Whiteman” lacks awareness of his privilege and presses for changes that appease the mostly white liberal theater-going public but are antithetical to what the artist is hoping to convey. I’ll answer my own question: she cannot, and she blows up at his demand for what she calls “poverty porn” and decides to move in a different direction: hip hop. She wants to rap about the “white gaze’s eroticism of Black pain,” and to collaborate only with the man who provides the beats: a Black DJ named D (Oswin Benjamin).

Radha’s relationships with Archie, D, and her students are vibrant and real, and engaging. The film is produced by out lesbian filmmaker Lena Waithe, and queer characters are woven into the fabric of Radha’s life seamlessly. At times hilarious, always authentic, this is the New York City ignored by Woody Allen, and Blank’s voice and vision are fresh and much needed.

After a season of too many long, slow, and ponderously oblique films centering on highly unlikeable people, this reviewer is relieved to remember that films can deal with serious issues without putting the audience through an endurance contest. I highly recommend streaming it on Netflix.

Posted by queerguru  at  18:59

Genres:  comedy, dramedy, lesbian

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