A man attempts to sabotage his ex-girlfriend’s chances of finding a new boyfriend in Simon Boisvert’s 2009 debut feature film 40 Is The New 20.
Last year we reviewed a documentary about the career of Simon Boisvert, who directs this film; Bold and Brash: Filmmaking Boisvert Style was a no-holds-barred look at the then 10-year filmmaking career of the French-Canadian Boisvert. It was an eye-opening journey through his back catalogue and the man himself came across as a very enthusiastic and self-deprecating subject, who was engaging and very likeable. 40 Is The New 20 was made in 2009 and was his first foray into English language films. It is also a lot better than it has any right to be. The technical aspects are choppy, the acting is patchy and the dialogue sometimes cringy, yet somehow, for the most part, the film works just fine and ends up being very watchable.
Opening with an exciting Go-Kart race, we are introduced to Gary (played by Pat Mastroianni). Gary is a Generation X-er and is just about to hit middle age – a time when society suggests he should be settling down with a good job, a good woman, and a family. Gary gives off the air of being smug and self-assured, but this is only a mask that he uses to hide behind – his true feelings are that of loneliness and desperation. Gary’s best friend is Simon, an alpha male played with relish by Bruce Dinsdale. Simon is Gary’s wingman and a beacon of sexism, obnoxiousness, and misogyny who is full of terribly loathsome advice that Gary, entranced by his friend’s bravado and misplaced confidence, often goes along with.
After encountering his old high school sweetheart Jennifer (sweetly played by Claudi Ferri), Gary, in his desperation to find love, makes it his mission to rekindle their old romance even though it becomes abundantly obvious to everyone that Jennifer simply has no feelings for him to reciprocate. What begins as a cynical man-meets-woman, 40-something romantic comedy, turns increasingly darker as Gary, influenced by his erroneous feelings and plain bad advice, turns into a possessively jealous sleaze bag.
Boisvert’s choice of locations is perfect for the subject matter, with a lot taking place in the familiar environments of the corporate sector, including office scenes with obligatory water cooler conversations, park exercise scenes, pools, and wine bars. Each moment is recognisable and easy to relate to, while Jaques F. Bernier’s cinematography manages to frame each office scene in simple yet effective ways, with the colours of browns, reds, and greys, as well as a fine use of mahogany, emphasises the formal nature of the mundane.
Despite the slow pace, 40 Is The New 20 is not just about Gary’s obsession with an unattainable dream. The movie shows us a whole system of emotional ratings, values, and techniques that both men and women use to judge the opposite sex with. We can all become monstrous and selfish at times during our lives, and in the end, both sexes can become the victim with nobody coming out unscathed.
What is remarkable is how realistic Boisvert’s writing is; it is always believable with each character being a three-dimensional creation. The only thing the script lacks is a genuine sense of humour which would have elevated the material above its cynicism. That said 40 Is The New 20 is an original journey into the lives of a group of people we may not like a great deal, but who we find interesting enough to support until the very end.