Star Cast: Radha Blank, Imani Lewis, Reed Birney, Welker White, Oswin Benjamin, Haskiri Velazquez
Director: Radha Blank
What’s Good: There’s a story, some good rapping and impressive performances.
What’s Bad: One cannot watch this delightful piece of art in theatres.
Loo Break: Only if there’s a concept of the interval when you watch movies at home.
Watch or Not?: Yes, please do!
The Forty-Year-Old-Version is a story of Radha Blank – the actor, the director and in the movie, the playwright. Radha, a single woman from Harlem, is all set to turn 40. During her 30s, she was a big name and had won 30 Under 30 accolade for her plays and writing. However, her career sees a downfall that makes her take a job of a play teacher in high school. After all, we all have rents to pay, isn’t it?
Amid all this, she realises she has the knack for rapping. In seconds, she decides she wants to do Hip Hop and calls herself, rapper RadhaMUSPrime. However, this isn’t the drinks, cars and girls rap a lot of us keep hearing for the past few years. Her rap tells the story of white people’s gaze towards the black ones. But at 40, one does make questionable choices. That’s what society wants us to believe. Radha also gets a huge opportunity to showcase her play based on gentrification in Harlem to a known producer, Josh Whitman (Reed Birney). Her best friend Archie (Peter Kim) insists her to give him a chance despite knowing Whitman is a prick and wants to change almost everything about Radha’s play. Reason? There’s no darkness, no white person in it.
So what choice will Radha make? Will she give her newfound talent that she didn’t notice for years and cause a 40-year-old version rap craze? Or she’ll sell herself out to Whitman with her play because she has rent to pay? Well, watch the movie to know the full story.
The Forty-Year-Old Version Movie Review: Script Analysis
Where do I start? The way the movie begins with Radha waking up, eavesdropping the moaning sounds of her neighbours? Or how she starts rapping out of nowhere because she’s angry and emotional? Radha Blank has written her story, but that doesn’t make it easier to tell with some fiction added in it. You have to be a good storyteller and writer to make sure people invest in it.
The off-screen Radha knew it, and that’s why she created this beautiful piece of art with great comedy and spectacular raps. The movie speaks of black lives and their talents, their issues and their struggle as an artist. But she wants to tell it without making them look helpless. But as her character in the movie says, people just want ‘poverty porn’ with such stories. Writing clean comedy with scenes and plots that have such depth and meaning is commendable and Blank did it successfully.
The Forty-Year-Old Version Movie Review: Star Performance
Radha Blank is a star of the movie. While her character Radha struggles to believe that she is born to be the star, Blank presents a phenomenal act. Whether it was cracking jokes on herself, the emotional scenes or her rapping, she nailed it. Her rapping skills are topnotch, and I would love to hear more if there’s a mixtape out there.
Peter Kim is adorable as Archie, Radha’s friend. The other actors Oswin Benjamin, Reed Birney, Imani Lewis, Haskiri Velazquez, do an excellent job throughout the movie.
The Forty-Year-Old Version Movie Review: Direction, Music
I think, along with writing, directing the movie must have been quite a challenge for Radha Blank. She’s telling a story based on her life. However, if she’d gone overboard with just herself on the screen, it wouldn’t have been much fun. Blank knew that and hence, we get to see a lot of characters in her story. Her friend Archie, her students Elaine (Imani Lewis) and Rosa (Haskiri Velazquez) or musician D (Oswin Benjamin), all of these are interesting characters.
The movie is in black and white, and that can easily be called one of the reasons what makes it more appealing. We do get to see some colour when Radha talks about her parents, and we get to see real pics of her folks. The way screen changes from her black and white apartment to these pics, it’s smooth af.
The music is another strong pillar of the movie. There’s an original rap called ‘Pound da pound cakes’ frequently used in the totally sexist film. This song is also the reason Radha discovers her interest in Hip Hop. Apart from this, the movie features extraordinary raps by different people. Blank also showed us that rapping does not always need music when the words are not enough to grab your attention.
A song called ‘Love and Peace’ by Quincy Jones is used towards the end of the movie that gives a calming effect required during the story.
The Forty-Year-Old Version Movie Review: The Last Word
Overall, The Forty-Year-Old-Version is a movie to all those who want to be heard, seen and have self-doubts. It’s a movie for those who value real art, the right talent and knows the struggles of people of colour.
Four and half stars
The Forty-Year-Old Version Trailer
The Forty-Year-Old Version releases on 09th October, 2020.
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