I love Radha Blanks’ semi-autobiographical comedy The 40-Year-Old Version, which is now playing on Netflix. She dares and comes and goes. The movie made me smile, pause, and applaud the sheer willpower Blank displayed in making his voice heard there and on the world’s # 1 streaming platform.
The film is about the character Radha Blank, a Harlem-based playwright who faces many of the same slippery struggles and constant setbacks as her creator. To make ends meet, Radha is teaching, not what she envisioned a decade before when she won a promising 30-under-30 award, and her drama students are feeling the disappointment in her career trajectory, with a spirited student who shattered her life. But it worked because a fire started again in Radha. She remembered that in college she not only rhymed but fought and won.
Using the old advice, which is to write down what you know, it prompts one to ask and answer the question: is the world ready for the 40 year old version?
The answer is yes. Writer-director Blank did not come to play. She entertains and educates everyone to a beat that makes a complete micro-drop of an independent film. The film is shot in expressionist black and white, giving a nod to Oscar-winning classic Spike Lees Shes Gotta Have It. Blank exhibits genuine and brutally honest functionality.
I want more. She knows the frightening impact of being ignored despite being gifted. She represents all of us, in a way, us people of color who are as talented (often, much more since most whites fail) as white artists.
It blows on the isms that break our hearts; racism and sexism all form a very enlightened view of Blanks. His courage is not something that we ourselves don’t understand or possess. We celebrate our sister here for having her film made, for making her voice heard for breaking the formidable obstacle.
She paid her dues and, with the help of producer Lena Waithe, the film was made. The Hollywood Brotherhood in Action is progress and it is positive change.
Blank is a Brooklyn queen and has been in the theater long enough to find out how white producers think African American stories should be told. His passionate manager / gay BFF Archie (Peter Y. Kim) is loyal and makes his trip better for it.
In search of rhythm, Radha hooks up with a DJ from Brownsville named D (Oswin Benjamin) to produce her mixtape. He agrees and the first track she records, Poverty Porn, rips up most of the clichés the White Guardians (Hollywood / Broadway) keep throwing at us with their notes to make our work more authentic (as they would know) . One position goes like this: no happy blacks in the plot, please / but a photo of Big Momma’s Crane crying on her knees / for her dead son, the b-ball star, who almost made it. / The sounds have enough to gain capital for my film.
Sick, right? No good drama is really good without trials and tribulations. On her first try, she is humiliated at an open mic party, in front of her students and manager, Archie, who later advises her to release her latest play, Harlem Ave., from the sub-black theater space. funded and launched) in Whitman.
Radha is a proud woman and asking for help, finding herself in a passive position trying to appease the ruling white men, makes her cringe. Her secret weapon is comedy and she is a superhero. Her timing is impeccable and her body language is sublime.
As a writer, she quickly uses her wits to tickle the funny bone and educate the masses about the political subtext.
At 129 minutes, it can be argued that the film is too long. Not when I’m snuggled up in my apartment (thanks, COVID-19) and watching on Netflix. In addition, Blank has a lot to say and we are listening, paying special attention to not miss anything.
Blank knows what the 40-year-old point of view looks and feels like. As a director she did it on her own (well done, applause, please) and as to her age (40) whatever, she did and you can do it too.
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