In her debut feature, ‘The Forty-Year-Old Version’ or ‘The 40-Year-Old Version,’ television writer and theater personality Radha Blank explores the inner workings of both the theater and rap scenes of New York City through a unique and satirical perspective. The main character is also a playwright. Once the recipient of a 30-under-30 award, Radha never really found success in the industry. Now 40-years-old, she has to answer some uncomfortable questions about her life and career from people around her.
One evening, after a theater producer obnoxiously questions her authenticity as a playwright, she attacks him, much to the horror of her childhood friend and agent, Archie (Peter Kim). Frustrated and despondent, she finds a different outlet to channel her creativity, rapping. Shot in black and white, the movie enunciates the grey urban beauty of New York City. Blank not only wrote the script and directed the film but also portrays the lead character. If you are wondering whether the movie is based on a true story, we have got you covered!
Is The Forty-Year-Old Version Based on a True Story?
Yes, ‘The Forty-Year-Old Version’ is based on a true story. In fact, it’s a semi-autobiographical movie based on Blank’s own life. Besides writing, directing, and playing herself in the film, she is one of its producers. Blank and cinematographer Eric Branco filmed the movie on location in New York City on a 35-millimeter black-and-white film. It originally premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it earned Blank the U.S. Dramatic Competition Directing Award.
On October 9, 2020, ‘The Forty-Year-Old Version’ dropped on Netflix. The film has received widespread acclaim from the critics, with many praising Blank’s vision and her peculiar brand of humor that oscillates between self-deprecation and satire. The film is more or less the real story of at least a part of her career. The real Radha Blank has also been active in the theater scene for several years and is still to achieve heights of success. Her last production, ‘Seed,’ premiered in 2011 at National Black Theatre in New York.
The character’s decision to experiment with hip-hop also stems from Blank’s real-life experience. In an interview, she spoke about her stage name, “RadhaMUSprime” and how hip-hop has helped her. “Performing at Joe’s pub, in little dives in Brooklyn, in Norway – this was part of my healing,” she stated. “RadhaMUSprime as an alter ego really did save me. What I love about hip-hop music is if you have a skill with a pen it really doesn’t matter what you look like. I used RadhaMUSprime to celebrate having a May to December romance, and I have a fat girl sex anthem. In my normal life I’m always dieting, whereas RadhaMUSprime doesn’t care. She celebrates her rolls!”
In the film, the fictional Radha is dealing with her mother’s passing. This is also an example of reel imitating real. According to Blank, she and her brother were raised “around artists” in an “intentional artist community.” Her father was a jazz drummer hailing from a family of musicians, while her mother was a painter. ‘The Forty-Year-Old Version’ was initially meant to be a web series with ten episodes, but Blank halted the production after her mother passed away.
Like any other filmmaker, Blank took creative liberties while writing some plot points and scenes in the film. As she explains, “I have not actually choked a theater producer… yet. Just like I’ve never won a 30 under 30 award and I’ve not had a relationship specifically with a hip-hop producer in his 20s from Brownsville. But that character [D, portrayed by Oswin Benjamin] is an amalgam of a lot of people I’ve dated, people I’ve met in music, and I tend to skew younger, so that part is true.”
Read More: Where Was The Forty-Year-Old Version Filmed?