Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: This is 40 vs. Smashed, two films featuring married couples grappling with the constraints of maturity.
Premise This is 40 reintroduces us to the unhappily married couple, Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann). In case you were, like, really curious about the intricacies of Pete and Debbie’s marriage while watching Katherine Heigl fall in love with Seth Rogen in Knocked Up and wish there was an entire movie devoted to the two of them bitching at each other and Judd Apatow’s kids, this is your chance. Debbie is a helicopter mom, interrogating her husband’s every bowel movement; Pete is a spineless man-child; and they’re both incredibly and existentially in denial about their age.
Smashed, James Ponsoldt’s second feature film, premiered at Sundance 2012 and earned the US Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Independent Film Making. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul, in a role not too dissimilar from Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad) have a tender, yet destructive relationship based on their mutual love of alcohol—hence the title—but what happens when she spirals out of control and decides to sober up alone? Advantage: Smashed
Supporting Cast It helps to have friends in high places; the cast of This is 40 is a who’s who of comedy. Melissa McCarthy! Jason Segel! Albert Brooks! Chris O’Dowd! Lena Dunham! Megan Fox! (Okay, maybe not her.) In Smashed, Nick Offerman plays the vice principal and ex-alcoholic at Kate’s school, who encourages her sobriety and accompanies her to AA meetings. Octavia Spencer and Megan Mullally also have supporting roles in the film. Advantage: This is 40
Comedy These films display two different types of comedic style. Judd Apatow’s signature crude humor plays a large role in This is 40, while the laughs in Smashed are more subtle and of a darker variety. We like that Smashed takes a less melodramatic approach to addiction, but we’ll entrust Apatow with the jokes. Advantage: This is 40
Married Life Rather than portraying the couple as Hollywood tends to portray addicts, Kate and Charlie’s situation, albeit idealized, is easy to digest without passing judgment. They aren’t defined by their addiction, but rather, they are likable people in a loving (and codependent) relationship who happen to have a problem. We’re curious to see if their love can transcend alcohol and all the fun they have while drunken bike-riding. The This is 40 trailer kicks off with Pete contemplating ways to kill off Debbie, and daydreaming of his second wife. Debbie, in turn, reveals that if she were to kill Pete, she would poison his cupcakes. The sadism is endearing, really, but we’d much prefer watching a couple still in that ever-so-sweet honeymoon stage, even if it may only be temporarily. Advantage: Smashed
Relatability Each of these films hinges on the relatability of its characters and universality of their experiences. The trailer tagline of This is 40 is, in fact: “This is not just your story, this is everyone’s story.” Actually, Judd Apatow, this is just your story. In fact, we believe that is your wife and those are your kids. Not everyone’s only worry upon turning 40 is as vain as Pete and Debbie’s. To prepare for their roles as lushes, Smashed stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul went binge-drinking. Like we mentioned, because their characters are not “othered” for their addictions, they could actually be anyone, which is far more relatable than Judd Apatow’s #whitepeopleproblems. Advantage: Smashed
Verdict Other than a more miserable sort-of-spinoff to Knocked Up and an inside look of the Apatow clain, we’re not exactly sure what This is 40 is about. We’re much more intrigued by Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance as a recovering addict. Winner: Smashed
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