While We're Young Review
Noah Baumbach delivers a heartwarming and charming insight into what it feels like to suddenly be aware that you’ve grown up
It’s about that moment when you realise that the culture of your youth is being replayed by the younger generation, and you're aware of not being as young as you thought you were.Noah Baumbach is no stranger to creating wonderfully different and eccentric films. Having collaborated with Wes Anderson on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Fantastic Mr. Fox, Baumbach has also proved his own worth with his directorial/writing contributions: Frances Ha, The Squid and The Whale, Margot at the Wedding. Baumbach’s latest written and directed production is a comedy based around the idea of marriage but one that goes into so much more detail. Having had the idea rolling around for a few years, Baumbach finally got down to actually making the film last year and reunited with James Murphy who did the music on Greenberg, as well as Ben Stiller and Adam Driver from previous films.Baumbach’s intergenerational comedy stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as married middle aged couple Josh and Cornelia. Despite their close friends having a baby and settling into a more ‘grownup’ routine, Josh and Cornelia are certain that they are happy with their carefree, spontaneous, and not to mention child-free lives. After meeting hipster couple Jamie (Adam Driver) and Derby (Amanda Seyfried), our older couple discover a zest for life that they hadn’t realised was missing whilst at the same time learning the limitations of their somewhat older bodies. However, not everything is what it seems as Josh soon discovers their new friends may have a hidden agenda.
Josh is a documentarist who, after having success with his first film, has been struggling and desperately trying to perfect a project which has so far taken the best part of 8 years. Through an apparent chance meeting, Josh meets Jamie and Derby, he’s a budding documentarist who claims to be a huge fan of Josh’s work and she makes ice cream in quirky flavour combinations. After an impromptu dinner together the two couples spark up a new and exciting friendship.
Reinvigorated by their new friends enthusiasm for everything life has on offer, Josh and Cornelia begin to expand their horizons trying their hand at new and somewhat questionable recreational activities. As you can imagine this is the part of the film which is sure to raise some laughs. We see Josh trying to emulate his new best friend by means of sporting a not so cool hat, Cornelia shows off her hip-hop moves in a genuinely hilarious moment of relinquished control and we see the two of them unearth some demons in a ayahuasca ceremony.
While We’re Young is a cleverly written and well directed film that is imbued with a variety of themes. The most obvious one being age, but just as significant is the debate surrounding technology which is prevalent throughout the entire film. In an age where we are constantly surrounded by gadgets and social media, While We’re Young examines what it would be like to take a step back from it all. There is a moment in the film where instead of using Google to get an answer, the two couples just try to remember it, the good old fashioned way. When was the last time you ever did that? Albeit simple, it’s moments like these that make this film hugely enjoyable.
The film toys with our expectations of youth today, we see the older couple scour Netflix for something to watch and reading books on their Kindles, whereas it’s the younger couple who are in fact more ‘traditional’ by watching films on VHS and playing actual board games and reading physical books. The idea of social interaction crops up during the film when the eager Jamie comes up with an idea for his own documentary about Facebook and wants to explore what it actually means to reach out to somebody in person. Again its Josh who appears to be much more technologically advanced than Jamie as he already has a Facebook account, something which he says he eventually came around to as it can be useful. Seeking their help to develop his idea, Jamie persuades Josh and Cornelia to join him on his mission to make what he hopes will be a pure and honest documentary.
Sometimes, despite all the technology and mod cons available, it’s nice to just sit down and play a board game.
As their friendship with Jamie and Derby develops, Josh and Cornelia find themselves distanced from friends their own age, who in turn are worried about them, fearing that perhaps they are experiencing a midlife crisis. Trying to rekindle their friendships however proves difficult from both sides so Josh and Cornelia find themselves returning to the carefree couple of Jamie and Derby, but eventually find themselves on the outside of both groups, trying to find out where it is they fit in. Josh begins to alienate those around him, in particular Cornelia’s father Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin). As the film progresses it moves in a different direction, leaving most of the comedy back in the first half, but later tries and fails to recapture some of the humour it so wonderfully created at the beginning.
The interaction between Stiller and Driver is largely what makes this film so enjoyable. At first Driver comes across as a slightly irritating hipster with his clichéd get up, but as the film progresses, it’s clear to see why Josh gets caught up in his whirlwind, carefree world. Jamie provides the flattery and ego boost that Josh has recently been lacking and having a protégé seems to be just what Josh needs. Driver was cast perfectly in this role, delivering a great performance of a character that seems to fit him like a glove. Watt’s and Seyfried’s characters unfortunately tend to fall to the background slightly, being overshadowed by Stiller and Driver, yet they still manage to give a decent performances with some genuine comedic moments.
Stiller’s performance in While We’re Young is true to form and exactly what you would expect from him, not to say that that’s a bad thing at all. Baumbach wrote the part of Josh with Stiller in mind, which translates well as clearly Baumbach has a distinct insight into the way Stiller appears on camera. Stiller is enjoyable to watch and maintains his humorous quality with an air of seriousness. The rest of the cast fit perfectly within the story, even Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz fits the role of stay at home dad perfectly.
While We’re Young has something in it for everyone, and regardless of how old you are, you will find splenty to relate to in this film. It’s witty and clever and contains a few nods to the history of film and documentary making, highlighting Baumbach’s appreciation towards the masters of cinema. The ending is one that some may find frustrating, but I personally think its well crafted and kept true to the films message of acceptance.
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