Knocked Up couple face midlife meltdown
THIS IS 40
Starring: Paul Rudd.
Director: Judd Apatow, Leslie Mann.
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What's it about? A couple decide to "spring clean" their marriage when they realise they're stuck in a rut.
Verdict: A bit overlong and not quite up to the standard of Knocked Up. Still packed with one-line zingers.
P aul Rudd, who dated Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, married Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe in Friends and enjoyed a bromance with Jason Segel in I Love You, Man, seems to be experiencing some sort of existential crisis.
"You get to a point in your life where not everything's ahead of you and certain questions have been answered," says the comedy star in surprisingly serious mode.
"There does seem to be a point when you feel you did everything you were supposed to do and now what? Is this it? How am I not fulfilled in the way I imagined? Why am I so miserable?"
The sombre speech is a little disconcerting but then his mouth breaks into a wide, warm grin.
Rudd, it seems, isn't only deadpan on screen.
He may not be feeling morose about middle age but it would be surprising if his latest movie hasn't caused him to pause and take stock of his life in some way.
This Is 40 is the latest project from Judd Apatow, who's either written, produced or directed (and in some cases all three) the likes of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Bridesmaids and the TV phenomenon Girls.
A semi-sequel, This Is 40 picks up five years after the events of (another Apatow movie) Knocked Up but this time we're checking in with that film's supporting characters Pete (Rudd) and Debbie – played by Apatow's real-life wife Leslie Mann – as they approach 40 and a milestone meltdown.
"It was great to play the character again, I would never have guessed that was going to happen," says Rudd, a boyish-looking 43-year-old who's wearing jeans and a white shirt beneath a brown suit jacket.
He looks tired, is sporting stubble and his dark hair's grown out and scruffy but the handsome, puppy dog features that have endeared him to millions over the past 20 years are still intact.
And really, part of Rudd's charm lies in the fact he's that unthreatening type of bloke who men want a laugh with and women want a cuddle from.
Apatow has even admitted he was worried the likeable actor wouldn't be able to pull off playing Pete as passive aggressive, detached and generally frustrated by life.
"I'm offended that he's been saying that, not that I pulled it off but because he didn't think I could," says Rudd, laughing.
After years of marriage, Pete now finds himself outnumbered by females (his two daughters are played by Apatow and Mann's own children Maude and Iris who reprise their roles from Knocked Up), constantly sparring with Debbie and struggling to keep his record company afloat.
"For the first time in his life, Pete isn't sure what music he likes, he doesn't know which acts are talented or who's good," says Rudd. "That was identifiable for me because it reveals a lot about his state of mind.
"As we get older, and become either less interested or unable to stay hip anymore, it's easy to question our identity. What always seemed like terra firma becomes shaky."
Rudd, who's worked with Apatow on numerous projects, says he feels a kinship with the director and they'll often talk about their personal lives in relation to the characters he's playing in Apatow's movies.
"I trust him implicitly and feel confident in his approach," he says.
Rudd, along with his wife Julie and their two children, Jack and Darby, has also spent a lot of time hanging out with the Apatow clan off set, too.
"We've already established this dynamic. There's a real familiarity there and I like working with them," says Rudd.
And far from breeding contempt, that familiarity's only served to evoke a genuine feeling of intimacy in the movie, be it between the parents and children or between Debbie and Pete, in all its blissful and banal glory.
Take the scene in which Pete, naked from the waist down and attempting to examine himself with a mirror and camera, asks Debbie to confirm whether or not he has haemorrhoids.
"Ha, that came about around a week before we were going to shoot the movie," Rudd recalls, smiling. "We were laughing about the scene, thinking 'wouldn't that be funny' but never really thinking we would do it and then the next script I got had that scene in it."
This Is 40 is in cinemas now.
ROOTS: Paul Rudd was born on April 6, 1969, in Passaic, New Jersey.
MAZEL TOV: He used to earn extra cash by DJing at Bar Mitzvahs.
FRIENDLY: Before appearing in Friends as Mike Hannigan, he starred alongside Jennifer Aniston in The Object Of My Affection.
WHOSE LINE?: He and Seth Rogan improvised the entire "You know how I know you're gay?" conversation in The 40-Year-Old-Virgin.