Tuesday, April 7

While We're Young Review

While We’re Young
Dir: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Maria Dizzia, and Adam Horovitz

During some pre-movie chitchat a few weeks ago I struck up a conversation about music with a young man sitting nearby. The young man, no less than a year out of high school, told me that he loved “old” hip-hop music and asked if I ever heard a song by an artist named 2Pac? I laughed thinking the young man was joking about the “old” label then realized that the song in question was released in 1996!! "While We're Young", from director Noah Baumbach, takes on the changing relationship between the aging Generation X and the youthful millennials. Baumbach handles the themes of aging, responsibility, and acceptance with a mix of resentment and forced assurance. 

Josh (Ben Stiller) is a forty-something documentary filmmaker who is married to a pleasant woman named Cornelia (Naomi Watts). Without any responsibility beyond themselves, due to struggles with pregnancy, the couple is consistently reminded by close friends that aging and change go hand in hand. Josh, who lectures about film at a college, meets a young twenty something couple named Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) who live life with a freewheeling perspective. Josh and Cornelia feel enlivened by the young couple and begin to partake in the lifestyle characteristics of the younger generation.

The film begins with some very clever and insightful truths and lies that many people, young and old, tell themselves. Whether the sentiments lost in the moment or the statements that structure change, Baumbach resonates in flashes how life may look, sound, and feel different even though the underlying emotions are nothing unfamiliar. Josh admires the freedom that the young couple lives for but also the interest they have for his experience, a relationship where Josh and Cornelia share established insight and the couple simply share their youthful perspective. Whether the hip-hop dance class Darby takes Cornelia to or the spiritual hallucinogenic getaway they all take, Baumbach shows with comedic flare the awkward generational differences and downright cluelessness that exists between both couples. The film’s strongest attribute is that Baumbach writes the film with such a genuine insight, whether the role of authentic truth verse shaped truth in documentary filmmaking and how it reflects changing structures of integrity or the malaise that success can put people in. It is unfortunate that Baumbach’s subtly touches eventually turn into a forced one-sided perspective as Josh’s admiring gaze fades and an alternative motivation is revealed. 

Ben Stiller is good here, utilizing nicely the confused and uncomfortable character that he portrays so well though is often overused in other comedies. Adam Driver plays off Stiller’s character, portraying friendly and fraudulent at the same time. It’s a shame that Naomi Watts’ range is underused here while Amanda Seyfried’s character starts off interesting but is moved into the background too often within a scene. Adam Horovitz, known alternatively as Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys, is cleverly cast as a husband and new dad who has given up his partying ways. 

Noah Baumbach is an accomplished filmmaker who understands character and utilizes them to move many of his films into unexpected and impressive places, take a look at “Frances Ha” or “Kicking and Screaming” for examples. With “While We’re Young” Baumbach makes many amusing and comic suggestions about the transitions throughout adulthood. However, just like the temporary harmony that exists between the generations in this film, things get conflicted and complicated, an all to familiar theme of growing up and growing old.

Monte’s Rating
3.50 out of 5.00 

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