I can’t believe I’m so late to the party on this one, but what a party! I’m talking about Rhada Blank in The 40 year old Version. Let’s start by saying congrats to Rhada on her BAFTA nomination for Best Actress in this and also congrats to BAFTA for recognising it.
This film could so easily have been overlooked – I did it myself – but this nomination pushed me back in to discover it, on Netflix, and I’m so glad I did – one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen during the awards season.
It’s about Rhada who plays a version of herself, a 40 year old version, as she’s reaching that milestone and wants to be the best version she can be, which means getting her playwright career back on track while she’s still teaching a class of drama students in Harlem and also deciding to relaunch a career as a rapper.
Shot in black and white, with freeze frames and jump cuts and jazzy interludes, you’re reminded of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, both the original 1986 movie and the TV update series he did of it, which I’m always recommending and which I love and which is also on Netflix… and for which Rhada was one of the writers.
It’s about gentrification, finding your voice, being yourself – it’s funny, smart, playful, daring, cool, very Harlem, very hip hop, very now, very Rhada Blank who wrote and directed and stars and raps and is just a wonderful presence to watch throughout.
I loved it and the soundtrack is superb, with everything from Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr to Quincy Jones jazz and the gorgeous Nia Brxx and tracks from an artist new to me Courtney Bryant…
For all of that invention and smarts, it’s one of my favourite films of the year. Watch it and watch out for Radha Blank.