FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION, THE
(director/writer: Rhada Blank; cinematographer: Eric Branco; editor: Robert Grigsby Wilson; cast: Imani Lewis (Elaine), Rhada Blank (Radha), Reed Birney (Josh Whitman), Peter Y. Kim (Archie), Oswin Benjamin (D), Haskini Velazquez (Rosa), Jacob Ming-Trent (Lamont), Antonio Ortiz (Waldo), TJ Atoms (Kamal); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jordan Fudge/Rhada Blank/Lena Waithe/Jimmy Price/Jennifer Semler/Rishi Rajani/Inuka Bacote-Capiga; Netflix; 2020-B/W)
“Has a distinctive note for the arts, and a feel for the city, ageing and the black experience.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The feature film directing debut by the Black stage actress and playwright Rhada Blank is like a one-woman-show in comedy. It’s shot on black-and-white 35mm as an homage to early Spike Lee movies. Though overlong (it could use an edit of probably 30 minutes), the star is likable and funny. It tells the semi-autobiographical story of Rhada as a 40-year-old struggling New York City playwright, who gets another chance at showbiz by reinventing herself as a fictionalized rapper.
Radha teaches play-writing at a Harlem high school, when her agent and longtime friend Archie (Peter Y. Kim) gets a noted but uncool patronizing white producer, J. Whitman (Reed Birney), to produce her new preachy play about Black shopkeepers dealing with gentrification in the city.
Radha reinvents herself as a rapper when she begins a new relationship with a Bronx music producer named D (Oswin Benjamin). She smokes weed before her debut as a rapper, and the results are terrible. She also gives a cringe-worthy speech.
The film has a distinctive note for the arts, and a feel for the city, ageing and the black experience.
REVIEWED ON 10/13/2020 GRADE: B