I’m going to be curious to see how much “This Is 40” resembles the screenplay that Universal just posted online in PDF format this weekend.
If you do decide to read the script, released as part of Universal’s awards push for the film, it’s interesting how strongly the voices of his actors are already embedded in the script. I can clearly hear Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy, and even Maude and Iris Apatow in the characters that Judd’s written for them. And while I like the script quite a bit, it’s telling that the sequence I saw them shoot when I visited the set does not appear to be in that script anywhere. Then again the photo I put on this article comes word-for-word from the script, and on the page, it feels like the sort of thing you’ll swear was improvised. That’s sort of the magic of the Apatow process.
As much as anyone working right now, Apatow writes a script as a way of beginning the process of figuring out his film. The shooting is a big step in that process, and then the editing is where he can pull any of several different movies out of the mountain of footage he creates. I’ve seen films of his during the editing process and then seen them again later and it’s amazing how much elasticity there is to them. They are fundamentally the same films, but alternate takes and different emphasis can make them feel completely different.
I’m really curious to see how Maude and Iris handle the roles their dad has written for them this time. They were charming surprises in “Knocked Up,” but this time, Judd is asking a lot of them, and Maude in particular is going to have to give a real performance if the film’s going to work. The script made me want to sue Apatow for listening in on my family life and simply writing down our conversations, but then I realized I’m raising two boys and I’m not a record executive with my own label, and it occurred to me that “This Is 40” is just an unflinching look at the speed bumps that can make family and career and love and money all so very challenging for us right now. It is very funny in places, but it is also filled with uncomfortable, intimate fights between Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) and…well… everyone. This is a script with a whole lot of arguments, and some truly painful moments.
It’s a great glimpse at how Apatow begins production on a film, and until I see the movie, I’ll have no idea how closely the finished review reflects the goals of the script. For now, it’s worth a look if you are interested in Apatow’s process, and I don’t think you have to worry about spoiling the film for yourself. I’m sure the finished version is even a surprise to Apatow himself.
“This Is 40” arrives in theaters December 21, 2012.