While We’re Young

I consider Noah Baumbach like the less popular brother of Wes Anderson. Baumbach (The Squid & The Whale, Margot At the Wedding) worked on scripts with Anderson and the two have been friends for a while, so it isn’t surprising that the characters in While We’re Young feel similar to those in an Anderson film. This is probably the most accessible film Baumbach has done, although still doesn’t match the cleverness of Squid. The script here is insightful, focusing on a middle aged, happily married couple, and what happens to them when they think they have to choose between, accepting a younger version of themselves or an older version. Stiller (Meet the Parents) is of course playing himself, because he doesn’t know how to play anything else, while Watts (Birdman) experiments with hip hop and Driver (This is Where I Leave You) gets the meaty role.
Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Watts) have emphatically decided to abstain from parenthood. In their mid 40’s, suffering from failed miscarriages, and after watching their friends becomes baby obsessed, they decide they like their freedom. Josh, a documentarian meets Jamie (Driver) and Darby (Seyfried) who audit his class. Jamie is also a documentary film maker and wants to collaborate with Josh, in hopes that Cornelia, a producer, and daughter of the famous documentarian Leslie Breitbart (Grodin) will offer assistance. Josh and Cornelia feel young again hanging out with these hip 25 year olds and begin staying out late, trying new things and rediscovering themselves, until they discover Jamie’s true motives.

As often as the script is sly and articulate it’s just as often overreaching and silly.

“Their apartment is full of everything we threw out,” Cornelia explains to their new-baby parents, who look at her in confusion. Baumbach seems to not only understand but find great pleasure in making fun of the new middle age era that is caught somewhere in between embracing the past but being forced into the future. His juxtaposition with the various generations is slightly hilarious, for example, Josh can’t find anything on Netflix with thousands of options, while Jamie has an enthusiastic collection of old VHS movies that he watches. Baumbach plays with the notion of the older couple embedded in current technology and social norms, while being bored with it, versus the almost hippy couple rediscovering anything and everything from the past.
As often as the script is sly and articulate it’s just as often overreaching and silly. One scene that runs entirely too long and takes the film far of course is when the foursome engage in a practice to “vomit up their demons” in a group cleanse led by a shaman. Baumbach’s insights into the two different generations begin to fade as the story begins to focus more on Stiller’s character trying to expose the man, just thirty minutes ago, he was fascinated by. “You’re acting hysterical,” Josh is told at one point, and it’s the typical Stiller hysterics that rendered me uninterested in the end.

Final Thought

Baumbach’s most accessible film yet.


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