by Zack Sharf, IndieWire
Radha Blank's directorial debut is hoping to turn Sundance buzz into big Netflix streaming numbers.
Netflix's upcoming movie slate includes major new offerings from top directors like Charlie Kaufman (“I’m Thinking of Ending Things”), David Fincher (“Mank”), and Ron Howard (“Hillbilly Elegy”), but it also includes a Sundance gem from breakout first-time filmmaker Radha Blank. This gem is “The Forty-Year-Old Version,” which won Blank the Best Director prize at Sundance earlier this year. Blank stars in the film as a variation of herself opposite a cast of mostly new faces, including Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Imani Lewis, and Haskiri Velazquez. Tony winner Reed Birney also stars, while Lena Waithe is attached to the film as one of its producers.
The official synopsis for “The Forty-Year-Old Version” from Netflix reads: “Radha, a down-on-her-luck NY playwright, is desperate for a breakthrough before 40. But when she foils what seems like her last shot at success, she’s left with no choice but to reinvent herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime. ‘The Forty-Year-Old Version’ follows Radha as she vacillates between the worlds of Hip Hop and theater on a quest to find her true voice.”
In his positive review of the film out of the Sundance Film Festival, IndieWire chief critic Eric Kohn called “The Forty-Year-Old-Version” a “smart and funny crowdpleaser with purpose,” adding, “Blank is so adroit at populating her story with shrewd observations and her own infectious personality that even its loose structure vibes with the nature of the movie, which maintains the rascally energy of an early Spike Lee joint while channeling a fresh new voice.”
Perhaps the biggest impression made in the official trailer outside of Blank’s fresh comedic voice is the cinematography from Eric Branco, the director of photography who made a name for himself last year in a big way thanks to his work on “Clemency,” the Alfre Woodard-starring prison drama that won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Branco and Blank shot “The Forty-Year-Old Version” on location using black-and-white 35mm film stock. The result is a love letter to New York City that hits even harder amid the pandemic.
“The Forty-Year-Old Version” will streaming globally on Netflix beginning October 9. Watch the official trailer below.