Awards Profile: This Is Forty

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Directed by: Judd Apatow
Written by: Judd Apatow

Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Iris Apatow, Maude Apatow, Megan Fox, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Charlyne Yi, Lena Dunham, Ryan Lee, Annie Mumolo, Robert Smigel, and Jason Segel

Synopsis: There’s no official studio synopsis from Universal available yet to publish, but here’s what we think we know at this point. It’s a spinoff from ‘Knocked Up’, with this film following married couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) a few years after that flick as they deal with middle age and family. Financial problems, getting older, kids growing up, and the family dynamic are all supposedly at play here (the rumored situation revolves around Pete’s record label having money problems and Debbie’s dress shop becoming the primary source of income for the family and the strife that this brings along with it).

We all know the couple from ‘Knocked Up’, and many thought that the subplot of Rudd’s Pete and Mann’s Debbie having marital issues was the strongest in the flick, so a spinoff focusing on them makes a lot of sense. Apparently Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl won’t be reprising their roles from the flick, but Jason Segel will be.  The early word has this flick being at times even more serious than ‘Funny People’ was, but still filled with the humor that made ‘Knocked Up’ a success.



Why It Could Succeed
:
Even more so than with ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’ (and sadly far more than with ‘Funny People’), ‘Knocked Up’ got people talking about a raunchy comedy actually making a play for Best Picture. We all know that in recent years ‘The Hangover’ and notably ‘Bridesmaids’ have also made plays for that title, but Judd Apatow’s sophomore feature really began the trend. I know here at The Awards Circuit (then The Oscar Igloo) we covered it as a real potential awards contender (one of my very first articles was on the Oscar prospects of the flick). It obviously didn’t turn out to be the case for the movie, but this time around, especially considering Apatow’s ‘Bridesmaids’ almost broke that glass ceiling, one could see a lot of potential for the flick in the major categories. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are at their best when Apatow is directing them, and these are probably their best roles to date. Both did a lot with their smaller roles in ‘Knocked Up’, and this is a chance to really build on those characters. As for Apatow, this is obviously a personal story of family, and that could hit home for voters in a way that his insular tale of comedians didn’t last time around in ‘Funny People’. Also, considering that he’s gotten some terrific supporting players like Albert Brooks and John Lithgow involved, one can hopefully assume that the script is a strong one.

Why It Could Fail:
Comedy still is fighting an uphill battle with Oscar, and the Oscar nominations for ‘Bridesmaids’ had a lot to do with the female-centric nature of the work. Also, if this turns into a real relationship sort of movie, those often have issues with the Academy anyway. All in all, I’m not fully convinced that voters really look at Judd Apatow as a serious filmmaker yet, and if I’m a fan of the filmmaker and think that, one can extrapolate that the average Academy member might find it on the hard side to nominate him at the current juncture. I could be wrong, and I hope that I am, but this is a 2012 flick that will have a tougher time getting nominations than most. I know I initially had very high awards hopes for ‘Funny People’ after seeing it at an early screening (I wasn’t alone then, but I was perhaps the loudest advocate) and wound up eating some crow over that one (though I maintain that it’s a terrific film and a fascinating takeoff of ‘The Great Gatsby’), so we shall see…

Awards Speculation:
I think it’s safe to say that the tech categories are a pipe dream here, so it’s likely going to come down to the actors, the writing, the directing, and the film itself, unless there’s an Original Song looming that we don’t currently know about. Best Director seems like a long shot at best, even less likely than Best Director, though Best Original Screenplay could be an interesting possibility for Apatow if the flick is up to snuff, unless of course it winds up as an Adapted Screenplay (the rules are sometimes fuzzy here). One can also make the case that both Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann have potentially strong shots at nominations here if they connect with their characters as much as they did last time. Both Best Actor and Best Actress could be in play, though as is sometimes the case, Mann could be pushed Supporting in order to boost her chances (unless Melissa McCarthy or one of Mann’s kids blows us away and is the likely contender for a Supporting Actress campaign). Let’s also not forget Albert Brooks, and how he could potentially get the Best Supporting Actor nod he missed out on last year with ‘Drive’ if he steals enough scenes here. John Lithgow could be in a similar spot for Supporting Actor too, so keep that in mind I’m not sure how likely that all is, but it’s definitely worth discussing at this early juncture. I know I’m very excited for this flick and can’t wait to see how it turns out. In the end, this could easily get shut out with the nominations, but if all goes well, it could finally be the Apatow directed flick to break through with the Academy. Time will tell ultimately, but count me in as a believer for now!

The film opens in theaters on December 21st, 2012 and will be distributed by Universal Pictures.

Oscar Potential:
Best Picture
Best Director (Judd Apatow)
Best Actor (Paul Rudd)
Best Actress (Leslie Mann)
Best Supporting Actor (Albert Brooks or John Lithgow)
Best Original Screenplay (Judd Apatow)

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