Radha Blank Arrives With The Impressive ’40-Year-Old Version’ [Sundance Review]

The Playlist | 1/25/2020 | Gregory Ellwood
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PARK CITY – A movie centered on someone in a mid-life crisis attempting something out of the box to recharge themselves isn’t particularly “fresh” these days, especially in the world of American independent cinema. Reading the logline of “The 40-Year-Old-Version,” which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival today, you might wonder if the directorial debut of Radha Blank could bring anything new to this familiar genre. I mean, a film about a 40-year-old struggling playwright deciding she wants to become a hip-hop artist? We know where this feel-good story must be headed, right? You can almost see the trailer in your head before you see the movie itself. Thankfully, Blank is here to surpass your expectations.

Blank, a critically acclaimed playwright who has written for episodic programs such as FOX’s “Empire” and Netflix’s “She’s Gotta Have It,” appears to be essentially playing a less successful version of herself. The Radha on-screen is at a crossroads. She was named to a prestigious “30 under 30” list but has barely gotten anything noteworthy made since as she earns most of her income from teaching high school students in an afterschool writing program. Her most recent work, “Harlem Ave,” is set up at an African-American centric theater group with an eccentric artistic director (William Oliver Watkins), who seems to have little motivation to actually get it up and running. Meanwhile, her agent and longtime best friend, Archie (Peter Y. Kim), is trying to jumpstart her career by cozying up to a bigshot Broadway producer, Josh Whitman (Reed Birney), who is uncomfortably less woke than he thinks he is.

Discussion - Whitman - Work - Event - Radha

After she endures a disastrous discussion with Whitman about her work at a public event, Radha hits what she thinks is rock bottom. Things are so bad in her eyes even her students are mocking her...
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