Blank’s film is a fearless, razor-sharp comedy about keeping the gentrification out of art.
If anything, Radha Blank shows us not just adolescents come-of-age when they reach adulthood. Blank’s film, The Forty-Year-Old Version, is a fearless, razor-sharp comedy that breathes new life into independent filmmaking. The story she spins blisters with a new and exciting voice, full of creativity with brutally honest observations that cut deep and often.
Blank stars as the Version, a playwright who has gone through a dry spell of success as of late. Her mother passed away a year ago. She has a strained relationship with her brother. Her agent and best friend since grade school, Archie, is frustrated with her creative integrity. She won’t compromise her ideals and play the game when an esteemed Broadway producer (The Hunt’s Reed Birney) tells her to change her play about the gentrification of Harlem to appease paying white audiences. She has lost her voice until she hooks up with D (Oswin Benjamin), who helps her pick up again. She locates it by becoming RadhaMUSPrime, her stage name, and finding passion as a female rapper who is going to turn 40 in three weeks.
The Forty-Year-Old Version premiered at Sundance last Winter and Blank took home the U.S Dramatic Competition Directing Award for her efforts. Her film really has the feel of a slice of life that is completely unique to her own experiences. It has an honest, organic quality. It has a perspective that art, music, storytelling, and even great stand-up comedy comes from. Blank’s script is self-deprecating, filled with incisive observations (“By, the aroma alone, I can smell three different grades of crack!”), and cleverly relevant. This includes an unfolding a story of how rich, white men and women gentrify her own vision by adding soy milk as a key element in her play.
This is one film that is blessed to have found a home on the streaming giant, Netflix. A comedy that many wouldn’t even know about and will now have at their fingertips. Blank’s performance, if not one of the best of the year, should be one of the most memorable when awards season rolls in — whenever that is, as the Academy keeps trying to extend the deadline. It’s an endearing, bold, and hilarious performance in a film that spins a fresh take on the struggle to keep the gentrification out of art.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.