When AARP magazine finally declares 80 the new 30, Judge Daryl Loomis will be in business.
If your life were a movie, people would say it's not believable.
Gary (Pat Mastroianni, Degrassi Junior High), a 40-something stockbroker who has never married, finds out that a colleague of his is best friends with Jennifer (Claudia Ferri, Dead Awake), his first girlfriend and someone he deeply regrets losing touch with. Gary helps Jennifer get a job at his firm in an attempt to rekindle their romance, but Jennifer's not feeling it. Gary won't quit, though. With the help of his best friend Simon (Bruce Dinsmore, Waking the Dead), he begins an obsessive quest to sabotage her personal life and make her think that nobody wants her so that she'll realize he's the only one who will love her.
By presenting one of the most despicable male leads in recent memory, writer/director Simon Boisvert (Barmaids) fails miserably on two levels. The first is his consistent attempts to make Gary sympathetic, which he tries even after treating Jennifer like chattel and showing himself to be an unrepentant a-hole. Before we've seen any of this, Gary just seems like a lovelorn guy, approaching middle age, who has legitimate regrets about the way he's treated his past lovers. It's easy to relate to this, and I was along for the ride, at first. The film begins with brief voice-over monologues from Gary and Jennifer about their various problems with relationships. Likewise, at the end, we get similar voice-overs to serve as an epilogue. Beginning to end, I have no problem with Jennifer. For Gary, though, after all the horrible things he's done to her, it's ridiculous for Boisvert to make him seem sympathetic. However I related to this creep in the beginning was forgotten; nobody should relate to such awful behavior. Are there no stalker laws in Canada?
The second problem, and the much more broad-sweeping one, is that Boisvert has approached his film as some kind of satire. It fails in this respect for a number of reasons but, mainly, it is neither biting nor funny; it's simply obnoxious. Boisvert is trying to skewer the notion of middle age romance in the internet age, but it gets muddled by the one-dimensional, stereotypical characters.
Gary seems nice on the surface, but very dark underneath, even if neither he nor the person who wrote him can accept that; he's just a cliched jealous ex. Jennifer is a serial dater and romantic who is never satisfied with what she has, instead leaving as soon as the sparks are gone. The supporting characters are even worse. Simon is the worst kind of base male stereotype. Afraid of commitment and obsessed with porn, he is the walking embodiment of the "bros before hos" mentality too common in frat culture. Cindy (Diana Lewis, Venus de Milo), Jennifer's best friend, may not be as egregious a stereotype as her male counterpart, but her only go is to convince Jennifer to settle. She looks at sex as something given to her man rather than something she can enjoy and marriage, in general, is a creature comfort that makes raising children easier. Love or attraction means nothing to her, so long as she has a man by her side. Of the four, only Jennifer appears remotely human. It doesn't hurt that Ferris's performance is by far the best of the bunch, but her plight feels genuine, what's done to her is truly awful, and she has my sympathies. All the other characters can eat it.
The film does have one thing going for it, however. Shot in and around Montreal, Quebec, Boisvert frames the city and the people within very nicely, with a lot of outdoor shots of the city's beautiful landscape and well-constructed interiors. The bars, homes, and offices all feel very realistic. The film is done in a naturalistic style that lets the scenes play out quietly but effectively, if only those scenes were better written. It's a nice looking film, but I suggest that Boisvert play to his clear strength and find a writer for his next film.
40 Is the New 20 comes on DVD from Production 1984, a label I'm unfamiliar with and, if this disc is an indication, it won't be swimming with the big fish any time soon. While there are no obvious transfer problems, the overall image looks quite flat, almost like a television movie, and does little justice to the Montreal landscape. The stereo sound mix is equally uninspired. It has a tinny feel with little low end sound, but the dialog is clear enough. The only extra is a trailer for the film.
This is a very low budget film, and most of the technical deficiencies can be forgiven on these grounds. What cannot, however, is the way the characters are presented. Gross stereotypes, nothing they say or do is relatable in real life at all and, most importantly, this is a comedy that is simply not funny.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Productions 1984
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