Marshall Brickman on ‘This is 40’ by Judd Apatow

Eye on the Oscars: Wrtiers' Roundup

I’ve watched with an almost fatherly pride as Judd has grown as a filmmaker and an artist. In a landscape littered with super-cool action heroes and computer-generated conflict, in which audience involvement is proportional to body count, Judd has chosen to work in the most difficult area of all — the human condition — and renders it with insight, grace, humor and honesty. One connects immediately with his screen family; yes, it’s his family — but it’s also my family, and yours, and the guy in the third row nodding and smiling along with the rest of the audience. False sentiment and unearned sympathy is the enemy of real humor and a hazard on which legions of lesser talents have stumbled. Judd has perfect pitch: none of his characters gets a free pass — if they’re charming, that’s nice; if they they happen to act like jerks he shows us that, too. And behind it all is a deep affection for them. What he does seems effortless, but the fact is it’s beyond complicated. It can’t be taught; it can be learned by a few. Most likely it’s in the DNA. Best not to ponder it but to just sit back and enjoy.

Marshall Brickman is co-author of the books for musicals “Jersey Boys” and “The Addams Family.”