Promising Playwright to Underdog Rapper The Forty-Year-Old Version Now Streaming
Written By Matthew Sadowski
Radha Blank stars in The Forty-Year-Old Version as a woman named “Radha Blank,” in a film she also wrote and directed. Clearly, this is going to be a very personal story, personal in the way that only someone directing themselves can be. The tagline is even “Find Your Own Voice.” So how does she choose to introduce herself to us? By waking up in a lonely apartment to the sounds of her neighbors noisily having sex. She excitedly gets up and puts her ear to the wall and her hand down her pants. However, the noises end almost immediately. She gives up, robbed of satisfaction.
Radha (the character) is a struggling creative in New York City who, around twenty years ago, was named one of the most promising playwrights on the scene in a “30 Under 30” list. But now, only a few months from forty, she has never “made it.” Her longtime friend/agent, Archie (Peter Kim), does his best to promote her to the arrogant producer Josh Whitman (Reed Birney), whom Radha cannot stand. In a frustrated burst of creativity, Radha realizes that rapping could be her true calling. She meets decade-younger D (Oswin Benjamin), who is surprised but impressed and agrees to help her rap. Between the pressures of her theatre world and the doubts of her newfound rapping one, Radha must decide where her true voice lies.
Version is populated by characters who think they know who Radha really is. Whitman, a white man, believes that Radha, a black woman, does not create “authentic” black stories, and encourages her to write, as Radha calls it, “Poverty Porn.” Archie believes that by giving in to Whitman’s ridiculous rewrites, Radha will have success and finally be happy. Even Radha herself struggles to believe that she is a worthy daughter of her late artist mother. Only D, removed from the material ideas of “success,” actually understands who she is: someone with something to say.
It is through the little victories of everyday life that Radha slowly gains happiness. She does not get the Big Moment where everyone realizes how great she is, or gets to have a Talk with a friend that makes everything click. This makes moments where she begins to glimpse her true self, like her personal satisfaction after rapping alone, all the more poignant. What Radha the filmmaker has created is indeed truth.
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Directed by: Radha Blank
Starring: Radha Blank, Oswin Benjamin, Peter Kim, Reed Birney
Streaming on: Netflix
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