MC movie critic Caryn James examines why growing up isn't as easy as getting old.
We've figured out who we are, but our skin hasn't sagged yet—our 30s are the best decade of our lives. So why does an inner voice bleat, "I don't want to grow up!" a decade out of college?
Now a few sharp comedies reflect our fears about kissing those pre-grad days of music, sex, and endless options good-bye. These films bypass earnest navel-gazing with wit, then drop in flashes of blazing honesty. Look at Away We Go, where hugely pregnant Verona (Maya Rudolph) wails to her partner (John Krasinski), "Do I have to be this uncool for the rest of my life?" It may be the funniest, truest line ever spoken by a mom-to-be on-screen.
Humpday director Lynn Shelton is even wilier, candy-coating the life crisis with two trendy themes: bromance and porn. Giddy newlywed Ben (Mark Duplass) is happy in the Seattle suburbs, until his globe-trotting old roommate, would-be artist Andrew (Joshua Leonard), drifts into town and reminds him what crazy guys they used to be. During a drunken night, the two heteros dare each other to film themselves in a gay sex scene for Humpfest, an amateur porn contest. Are they still wild enough to go through with it?
The premise is outrageous, but the characters' insecurities are easy to identify with. Ben reverts to college babble, claiming he wants "to make a piece of art." (Remember when that wouldn't have sounded pompous?) His wife, Anna (Alycia Delmore), reveals that she's horrified at being labeled a square; aimless Andrew worries that he's a colossal screwup. That's where Humpday scores a reassuring point—we glimpse the downside of being footloose forever.
Humpday's ruthless truth sneaks up on us. While the boys play, Anna sits home staring at her special pork-chop dinner like an abandoned sitcom wifey. We wonder: When the walls close in, isn't that a bit our fault? But as the characters open their eyes, they reassure us that not being complacent is the best way to escape a cookie-cutter future.
The archetypal when-did-we-become-grown-ups movie, 1983's THE BIG CHILL, gathers a killer ensemble (Glenn Close, William Hurt, Kevin Kline) for a maudlin reunion, set to a Motown soundtrack. In a quirky take on the quarter-life crisis, a moody Zach Braff returns to his suburban roots in GARDEN STATE. And in the frat-pack party OLD SCHOOL, Will Ferrell demonstrates why streaking in your 30s isn't pretty.