Updated Monday, December 24, 2012 at 07:31 AM
It’s almost like Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes From a Marriage,” Judd Apatow’s “This Is 40.”
“In fact, before I made the movie I watched ‘Scenes From a Marriage,’ which actually has a lot of humor in it,” says Apatow, whose own chronicles of domestic discord — the stormy to-and-fro between men and women, or man-boys and women — have become a brand unto themselves. “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and now, “This Is 40,” which opened Friday.
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“I love the spirit of ‘Scenes From a Marriage’ — so much of it is deadpan, and the scenes go on for a really long time and force you to feel every aspect of these awkward moments.”
There are awkward moments aplenty in “This Is 40,” which revisits “Knocked Up’s” marrieds, Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), as they grapple with parenting issues, economic issues, sexual issues and weird bathroom-habit issues.
Apatow is wed to Mann, and Maude and Iris, the two girls who appear as Pete and Debbie’s kids, are, in fact, Apatow and Mann’s.
“This is my version of a film about this middle-aged period of life,” Apatow explains, “but it’s not a story from our lives. ... Leslie is such a courageous actress, she wants to go farther, and she wants it to be as truthful as possible, but for us it’s about emotional truth. ...
“Nothing in the movie happened ... but it is about our concerns, and it does examine all of the debates that we have. It is a heightened version of our communication problems.”
Well, a few things in the movie really happened. Apatow and Mann’s eldest, Maude, who was 13 when they shot “This Is 40” and has just now turned 15, did, like her character in the film, go on a major “Lost” binge — watching every one of the 121 episodes of the J.J. Abrams series in a matter of weeks.
“The second we start a project — well, first I have to get her permission to do it,” Apatow says, explaining how he and his wife approach their work. “So I have to tell her the idea, and then she says if she’s game and if she feels like it’s appropriate to have the kids in the movie.
“I’m probably more reckless that way. I just think, well, this would be really interesting. And she says, ‘Yes, but will we ruin our children’s lives?’
“And I’ll say, ‘Only if the movie’s terrible.’ ”
So Apatow and Mann throw ideas out there, and talk through them, and walk through them, and deconstruct them.
“It’s fictionalized,” Apatow says, “but in some ways it is our lives. Or how we look at life. And that’s why it feels balanced, because she defends Debbie’s position and I defend Pete’s. ...
“It’s multimillion-dollar couples therapy — we hope other people will enjoy.”
Actress Leslie Mann, left, and her filmmaker husband, Judd Apatow, collaborated on “This is 40.”
Todd Williamson / Invision / AP
Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann at the premiere of “This is 40” with their daughters, Iris Apatow, left, and Maude Apatow, center, who co-star with their mother in the film.