Five Reasons to Watch “The Forty-Year-Old Version” on Netflix

Netflix has been a popular streaming service for years, offering original content along with other media it streams. One of their more recent original films, The Forty-Year-Old Version was released on October 9th of 2020 to critical success. Radha Blank wrote, directed, produced, and starred in this comedy drama about a playwright living in New York City, desperate to make a name for herself before she turns forty. In order to make her voice heard, she turns to rapping, bringing her to new opportunities and discovering her true self. Here are some reasons to watch Blank’s directorial debut next time you’re searching for a film to watch.

  1. 1. Diversity

    Diversity can be a difficult word to navigate, especially in the world of media. Some television shows or movies will claim to have a diverse cast, but then it ends up being mostly white characters with a token black character thrown in with no real development or story. However, with Blank’s film, her world actually looks like New York City. She is a black woman in her 40s with an Asian best friend who’s in a long-term relationship with his boyfriend. Her character teaches dramatic writing to lower income students and supports them despite their tough situations. New York City is full of people of color with different sexual orientations, and Blank actually portrays that in her film, along with an original gender nonconforming student of hers. It’s a refreshing change of pace to see something other than the same four actors ruling the screen who don’t have the experience someone like Blank does.

  2. 2. An Interesting Plot

    Blank wrote this film based off of her own experiences, and she even named the main character Radha Blank. Her story about how far she was willing to go to make her work known is enough to make someone interested in her story, but watching her try to maneuver between the worlds of theater and hip hop is unlike any film I’ve seen before (and I’ve seen a lot of movies). Even with an undertone of romance, Blank’s story is something different to watch  rather than a basic romantic comedy where you can see the ending coming from a mile away. It’s also different from the usual rags to riches story where the struggling playwright becomes an overnight success because, in reality, we all know it doesn’t work that way. Audiences are given a dose of real life and the true struggle of being an artist with this Netflix original hit.

  3. 3. Good Music

    Since the movie tells the story of a woman who takes up rapping, this movie is filled with incredible beats. The songs that Blank creates for the film are worthy of anyone’s playlist for any mood. Both the character Radha and the real life Radha have been rhyming since they were young, but after growing up and experiencing the love and hurt in the real world, they use music to cope and let their soul run free. From “Mamma May I” to “Poverty Porn,” Blank tells stories through the songs she wrote for the film and are too catchy to forget. It’s amazing enough that Blank was so in control of this film with all of the work she contributed, but the music she constructed for her film is icing on the cake. The film’s soundtrack also features songs from Queen Latifah and Courtney Bryan to add more pleasure to this already impressive film.

  4. 4. Life Lessons

    Blank discovers a lot about herself throughout the duration of the film. A main plot point in the movie is that she doesn’t want to be a sellout; she doesn’t want to have to change herself or her plays just for them to be picked up by a producer. If her voice is going to be heard, it’ll be her voice. However, it isn’t as black and white as Blank believes it to be in the beginning. The journey she takes to get her play off the ground (and then her rap career) is not an easy one; she is constantly back and forth in what she wants and what she wants to achieve. It’s even frustrating at times watching Blank be unsure of her next move, but it’s what makes her character even more human and relatable. Audiences can learn a lot from watching Blank’s performance in The Forty-Year-Old Version.

  5. 5. Social Commentary

    A main theme that’s present in one of Blank’s plays in gentrification, which is “the process whereby the character of a poor urban area is changed by wealthier people moving in, improving housing, and attracting new businesses, typically displacing current inhabitants in the process.” Not only is this shown in her play, but it is also represented in real time. In order to get her play to be showcased, she has to change certain aspects of it that make it more appealing to wealthy white men in the theater industry.She touches the subjects of racism and sexism, as well as sexual coercion in the workplace. These are not easy topics to cover, but they happen everyday, and it would be irresponsible to ignore them. Blank does a great job at integrating these issues into her movie that is already jam-packed with important substance. There’s definitely something for audiences to reflect upon once the film is over.