“While We’re Young” Movie Review


     Writer/director Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young” explores an interesting premise, but chooses a number of odd scenarios in which to tell the story of a middle aged couple who come upon a young twenty something couple and are intrigued by the care free lifestyle they live.  Baumbach has the benefit of an outstanding ensemble that includes Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, and Charles Grodin which lends to a certain credibility an indie like this otherwise would lack, but his screenplay is all over the place and isn’t always satisfying scene to scene.  The film never really goes for any laughs, but I suppose depending on your age, you may see these characters and the choices they make as comical to a point, but in the end Baumbach makes it clear his film intends on dealing with serious family issues, which in this case are deep rooted.

     Josh (Ben Stiller) is a documentary filmmaker whose current unfinished project has taken him the last ten years.  His wife, Cornelia (Naomi Watts), produces these kinds of films as well, but isn’t involved in her husband’s projects since he prefers to work alone.  In the middle of them is Cornelia’s father, Leslie (Charles Grodin), who happens to be one of the most respected documentary filmmakers of all time and functions as that always unattainable level of stature Josh will secretly always strive for.  It’s an interesting dynamic since Josh and Cornelia do not have kids and seem held together primarily by their work interests, and yet the relationship between Josh and Leslie is constantly strained.  As the older and wiser man, Leslie converses with Josh with an ever so calm demeanor with ever word delivered with a hidden criticism of Josh’s work.  All the while knowing Josh may never reach his level and he would just assume it stay that way.

     With so much professional tension within their daily lives, it’s no surprise that when Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) show up in Josh’s documentary film class with the kind of young and ambitious energy he once had, the two couples immediately hit it off.  Jamie is an aspiring documentary filmmaker and sees a prime target in Josh as a would be mentor and way into the business.  As we find out later, he’s more than aware not only of Josh’s accomplishments (he claims to have paid $60 for a VHS cassette of one of Josh’s early docs that wasn’t distributed), but also of Cornelia’s and her father’s as well.  When the two couples sit down for dinner at a Chinese restaurant, their conversations are dominated with the narcissistic rants of a full of himself Jamie as he lays his life out piece by piece to Josh and Cornelia who seem mesmerized by the life these two youngsters lead.

     If you are fan of “Girls”, Jamie will no doubt remind you of the same free spirited slacker he plays on that show.  I could easily be convinced the same guy left Hannah and moved on a few years later to marry Darby, as she appears to be a better match anyway.  Jamie and Darby are the type who never offer to pay the bill at dinner and yet, are clearly ok with it as they sit their and charm their way through the meal as if it is their parents they are sitting across from.  They attend functions where friends get together and flood the street with water in order to simulate a beach environment, giving them an excuse to put on swimwear and run around without a care in the world.  They find it important to go to cult meetings in which the attendees consume a liquid that makes you hallucinate and throw up so as to rid yourself of demonic qualities or something.  Darby makes avocado flavored organic ice cream while Jamie listens to tracks from his massive record collection.  They act as though they are throwbacks to a time when their parents were growing up, and yet they exhibit none of the qualities such as work ethic which the generation prior to them possessed.  Instead, they choose not to work, and feel as though they are entitled to everything without having to earn it.  Why Josh and Cornelia didn’t dismiss these two yahoos in the first scene is beyond me.

     All of this culminates in an internal family struggle that really doesn’t have anything to do with Jamie and Darby anyway.  As characters, they function merely as an interesting alternative to the realities of life which Josh and Cornelia are already well versed in.  When a couple talks about moving forward, the last thing you should do is look to a younger couple as some sort of an example who has yet to experience years of good times and bad times for that spark.  No, wearing spiffy new clothes and a fedora will not change things and jumping head first into a hip hop dance class won’t either.  In fact, the solution was right in front of Josh and Cornelia’s faces all along.  Take advantage of their love of film and collaborate with Cornelia’s father to make something truly memorable for everyone involved.  There really was never any need to involve a younger couple who weren’t in their league in any category and were there just to use them for their own gain.  Of course, Baumbach goes in a completely different direction in the third act of the film, leaving these characters in much the same place they started. GRADE: C+