Free movie screening crowds are an odd beast, and the crowd at AMC NorthPark for last night's screening of and Q&A for Judd Apatow's This Is 40 was the epitome of a Free Movie Crowd: film nerds, Apatow fan boys and people who just love free things.
The film, a wild, sprawling look at married life and parenthood (and a Knocked Up spin-off), clocks in at 2:15 minutes, long for a studio-produced comedy. It's a testament to the strength of the film that the audience seemed into it right up to the closing credits.
That's when the real fun started.
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After a short break during which cameras and lights were set up for the national broadcast of the Q&A, Apatow himself appeared in all his geeky glory. Hosted by News film movie critic Chris Vognar, the session immediately took on a Night at the Improv vibe. Apatow answered questions deftly but was clearly there to sell his movie and get some laughs. What started as orderly eventually turned into a quip-filled free-for-all between audience and director.
Apatow talked in depth about the movie's similarities to his own home life. His real life wife, the actress Leslie Mann, plays the wife of the Apatow-esque Paul Rudd character. And, as they did in Knocked Up, Mann and Apatow's children play the main characters daughters.
"About 40 percent is totally real, about 40 percent is embellished or made up for laughs," Apatow told the crowd. "And the last 20 percent, all the really gross stuff, is all based on Paul Rudd's real life."
The most touching moment of the night came when a young fan, voice cracking from a healthy mix of nerves and puberty, asked Apatow what advice he would give to an aspiring filmmaker. He cited the low overhead of cheap cameras, easy access to free editing software and the power of video sharing sites like YouTube and Funny or Die. It was a refreshingly straight, honest and positive pep talk from the man who brought the world a movie about a 40-year-old virgin.