UK Release Date: 3rd April 2015
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin
Synopsis: A childless, middle-aged couple, bored of their own lives, find a new sense of purpose when they befriend a pair of trendy youngsters and begin to question their way of life.
Noam Baumbach is well-known as a hipster filmmaker, often working alongside his contemporary Wes Anderson and girlfriend Greta Gerwig – star of Baumbach’s Frances Ha. His latest film, While We’re Young, takes a mature, wryly amusing, look at modern youth through the eyes of a middle-aged couple.
Documentary filmmaker Josh (Ben Stiller) and producer Cornelia (Naomi Watts) have a healthy relationship, but struggle with their busy jobs and Cornelia’s inability to have children. Maddened by their older friends child-centric existences, they start to spend time with a younger couple – Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) – who couldn’t be more different to them.
Everything that While We’re Young suggests with its trailer is present and correct in the movie. There are moments when the film feels like taking a walk through Camden as the only person without a vinyl collection. Despite its hipster trappings, though, While We’re Young ultimately proves to be a cleverly-observed comedy inhabited by intriguingly complex characters.
| "There’s something about being around them that energises you."
Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts have great chemistry as the central couple in While We’re Young. Both are believable, with Stiller comfortable as the workaholic artist who can’t quite bring his vision together and Watts solidly frustrated as a childless woman in a baby-mad world. They are both uptight, tech-obsessed and every inch the archetypal suburban couple.
Baumbach reveals just enough of their mundane daily lives before introducing Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried’s curveball kooks. Stiller’s character stammers through a lecture when his Powerpoint doesn’t work, but Driver and Seyfried seem unbothered by the technological failure when they speak to him afterwards. It’s a neat snapshot of their lives – in which vinyl replaces digital downloads and the written word takes the spot of shiny smartphones.
This inversion of audience expectations sits at the heart of While We’re Young. Baumbach perhaps leans a little too heavily on this basic premise, particularly in terms of his film’s comedic moments, but there’s also a rich dramatic plot that comes to an impressive zenith in the third act. That climax has plenty to say about the nature of truth and its place in modern society. It’s when Baumbach is observing that the film is at its best.
In direct opposition to the heart-on-his-sleeve Stiller, Adam Driver has a certain creepiness to him that really makes this role fly. He’s believable as a guy who has buckets of charm on the surface, but always seems to have an undercurrent of falsehood underneath. There’s something about him that doesn’t quite ring true, especially in his relationship with Seyfried, which seems as if it is constructed in order to fit Stiller and Watts’ ideal.
| "He’s not evil. He’s just young."
Some of the comedy falls a little flat, particularly in a bizarre sequence set around a ceremony in which the protagonists take hallucinogenic drugs, which is much too Seth Rogen for this film. When Baumbach dials it all back, though, as he frequently does, While We’re Young is an engrossing look at the nature of ageing as well as the notion of truth.
Pop or Poop?
With four terrific performances moving it along, While We’re Young manages to avoid falling into the realm of hipster twaddle.
Noah Baumbach’s film is neatly observed and takes very interesting plot turns. Not all of the comedy works, but there are some genuinely funny moments for each cast member.
While We’re Young has no desire to set the world alight, but it’s happy to succeed in its own little niche.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.