WHILE WE’RE YOUNG
*** (out of 5)
April 10, 2015
Namoi Watts as CORNELIA
Ben Stiller as JOSH
Adam Driver as JAMIE
Amanda Seyfried as DARBY
Charles Grodin as LESLIE BREITBART
Maria Dizzia as MARINA
Adam Horovitz as FLETCHER
Matthew Maher as TIM
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
BY KEVIN CARR
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By all measure, Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young” should appeal entirely to someone like myself: a film lover, a movie critic and someone in his 40s. However, it still rings with the flavor of a standard Noah Baumbach movie, which doesn’t always ring true with me. Still, because of my age, I found a lot of intended humor in it.
In “While We’re Young,” Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a couple in their 40s who become friends with a couple in their 20s (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). At first, they are charged by the new relationship, discovering the free-spirited lifestyle of the younger generation and their zest for life. However, as things wear on, they soon learn that not everything about this relationship is great, and soon they have trouble keeping up with the activities as well as the shifting morals of life that come with a youthful spirit.
The best parts of this movie come from Baumbach finding inspiration in the way the younger generation works, particularly in the hipster movement. He points out the odd quirks of the Millennials, including their love for older things (including vinyl records over iPods and VHS tapes over Blu-rays and hi-def televisions).
Of course, where Baumbach nails some of these things in the specific, it doesn’t always work in the general sense. I know plenty of people much younger than me who collect vinyl and love VHS, but that doesn’t stop them from having a digital playlist of thousands of songs or a Blu-ray (or actually a digital cloud archive) of dozens if not hundreds of films. The difference is that people in their 40s dealt with VHS decades ago because that was our only option. The younger generation adores older things, but they also love the newer toys as well.
This is especially apparent during two particular scenes: One features Adam Driver’s character suggests they don’t use their smart phones to Google a piece of trivia (yet he later sends the answer to Ben Stiller’s character in a text, which ultimately defeats the purpose of the exercise). In the other, we see a montage of Stiller and Watts consumed by their handheld devices while Driver and Seyfried are engaging in more interpersonal experiences (yet it ignores the fact that Millennials are apt to whip out their phones at a moment’s notice and break apart these interpersonal experiences).
A lot of the observational humor that Baumbach displays appears to come from his own personal life, assumingly the struggles he had when he first started dating actress Greta Gerwig, who is fifteen years younger than he is. Sure, this injects a lot of truth into the moments (which gives the film a fresh and honest feel), but it doesn’t quite nail either generation on the nose.
Of course, the movie does have a plot, which involves Stiller’s character struggling to finish a documentary as a follow-up to the film that put him on the map. At the same time, he butts heads with his father-in-law (Charles Grodin), a famous documentarian to whom he’s always trying to live up. There’s a tense angle of the story as Driver’s characters edges into their relationship for his own personal gain.
However, this plot is really irrelevant to the movie as a whole. When the film tries to right itself and tell this story is when the movie starts to fall apart. Baumbach may very well be the modern Woody Allen because it is in the character interactions that the comedy gold comes. The story itself is rather secondary and even a distraction at times.
In the end, I liked “While We’re Young” better than several of Baumbach’s recent films. It’s far more entertaining, but not as cohesive, but the entertaining side makes it a better watch than a strong plot does.