Forty year old men in movies

I’ve been on this planet for forty years, and I’m no closer to understanding a single thing.

says Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation.

Forty years old, and I’ve never done a single thing I’m proud of.

says Harvey Milk, early in Milk.  It’s his fortieth birthday when we meet him:

The film then flashes back to New York City in 1970, the eve of Milk’s 40th birthday and his first meeting with his much younger lover, Scott Smith.

Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams tells us he’s thirty-six:

Annie and I got married in June of ’74. Dad died that fall. A few years later, Karin was born. She smelled weird, but we loved her anyway. Then Annie got the crazy idea that she could talk me into buying a farm. I’m thirty-six years old, I love my family, I love baseball, and I’m about to become a farmer. And until I heard the Voice, I’d never done a crazy thing in my whole life.*

but that was in 1989, when, believe it or not, life expectancy was 3.89 years shorter.

Then of course there’s:

and

What’s going on here?  I pondered this.  Is it because forty years old is about when directors get the chance to make movies like this? Most of them are men, so it’s no surprise the topic they’re obsessed with is forty year old men?

Are there movies about explicitly forty year old women? None leap to mind. There are several movies about a ~ thirty year old woman’s crisis. Bridget Jones, My Best Friend’s Wedding – but I can’t think of forty year old women appearing quite so often with such clear declaration. (Although maybe that’s a bias in what this observer, himself a forty year old man, picks up.)

Could it be the actors? This is when make actors tend to be developed in their craft, at the peak of their power, empowered to wrestle with material they choose, yet also perhaps pondering some bigger questions than might concern a younger man.

Is forty when a man straddles a divide between the free adventures of youth and the responsibilities of adulthood? Truly, finally, no more postponement, he must make some choice? Does that choice make for a movie?

Or maybe it’s simpler than all that.

Let’s say you just turned 40. Obviously, 40 is just a number, but in many ways, it’s a milestone. Though people are living longer these days into the 80s and 90s, still age 40 is considered the halfway mark.

(That’s from this article on Seeking Alpha.)

Maybe it’s just the halfway mark.  When you get to halftime you ask, how am I doing?  You check the scoreboard, talk in the locker room.  “Make adjustments,” as the football coaches always say.

In the middle of the journey of our life

I found myself in a dark forest,

for the straight way was lost.

Not a bad way to start a story. (Dante’s Inferno, Canto I, translated by Google)

Update:

A reader writes

Hi Steve,

I saw your latest blog post about movies where guys turn 40 and I can’t believe you left out City Slickers. Come on!
Best,
Ooo, fair enough.  City Slickers is kind of a blank spot for me, it just kinda passed me by.  Weirdly remember City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, at least as a marketing campaign.  I believe I only saw either film when I wrote an American Dad! episode in a similar genre.
Back in New York City, Mitch has turned 39 years old and realizes his trips are to escape the reality of going through a midlife crisis. Phil and Ed have problems of their own: Phil is trapped in a 12-year loveless marriage to his shrew wife, Arlene, while also managing her father’s supermarket; and Ed is a successful sporting goods salesman and playboy who has recently married an underwear model but is reluctant to settle down and have children.
says Wikipedia.

* Ray Kinsella says that before he heard the Voice, he’d “never done a crazy thing in my entire life.” But earlier in the same speech he tells us:

I marched, I smoked some grass, I tried to like sitar music, 

Sounds like a guy who’s at least experimental (or is he saying he did all the cliché things of any ’60s college student?). 

Ray also says that (along with Annie) he bought a farm in Iowa, the “idea” of which was, his words, “crazy.” 

I think Ray protests a little too much here. I think he is the type who would at least consider a crazy thing.  Perhaps that openness is part of why the Voice chose him.  

 

 



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