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FILM REVIEW: Witty satire 'The Forty-Year-Old Version' pokes fun at 'black poverty porn'




FILM REVIEW: The 40-Year-Old Version (15)

VIEWED ON NETFLIX

STARS: Imani Lewis, Radha Blank, Reed Birney.

RUNNING TIME: Two hours, nine minutes.

DIRECTOR: Radha Blank.

Playwright and proud native New Yorker Radha Blank makes her feature film
directing debut in this funny, touching and compelling satire, which she also wrote.

Named one of ‘10 directors to watch for 2020’ by Variety, here Radha pays cheeky homage to the fact that ‘women of colour directors are hot right now’.

She reimagines her life as a once-promising playwright, faced with the fact she is nearly 40, still single and teaching theatre students rather than wowing Broadway.

Radha Blank stars in The Forty-year-old Version (42670608)
Radha Blank stars in The Forty-year-old Version (42670608)

Shot in black and white, the film flits between Radha’s interactions with the lively group of teens she teaches and her disappointment of the theatrical world, where she faces constant rejection while refusing to conform.

After meeting Bronx-based music producer D, she becomes impassioned again when she rediscovers her old love of rap.

But trying to mix her alter-ego of RadhaMUSprime with getting her play to the big time is tricky, and a mix of nerves and an ill-judged puff on a cannabis joint sees the rap dream blown out of the window. There’s still room for an unlikely romance with D though.

Things are not so simple with her play either. Harlem Ave is about gentrification but Rhada is given the choice of success or compromise by a theatre producer who wants, what she calls, ‘black poverty porn’.

Does she tell her story how it was meant to be, or how white audiences and theatre bosses want to view it?

The satire is delicious and even her students conform to the stereotypes you’d expect – whacky Bill and Ted-types, a feisty Tom-boy and a tortured, beautiful outcast.

The kind of storyline this movie is sending up is portrayed hilariously when the local homeless nut job refuses to suddenly impart words of wonder and wisdom to Radha.

This should be the platform which lifts her into movie making stardom. It’s quick, witty, self-aware and, above all, totally original.

By Jeremy Ransome

Rating 8/10

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