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While We’re Young

March 26, 2017

While We’re Young (2014)
Director: Noah Baumbach
Actors: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver

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Synopsis: Forty-something couple Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) find new zest in their lives when they befriend bohemian twenty-something newlyweds, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried).

Review:  The thing about you kids is that you’re all kind of insensitive. I’m glad I grew up when I did cos your parents were too perfect at parenting- all that baby Mozart and Dan Zanes songs; you’re just so sincere and interested in things! There’s a confidence in you guys that’s horrifying. You’re all ADD and carpal tunnel. You wouldn’t know Agoraphobia if it bit you in the ass, and it makes you mean. You say things to someone like me who’s older and smarter with this light air… I’m freaked out by you kids. I hope I die before I end up meeting one of you in a job interview.

The above is the seminal quote from Noah Baumbach’s outstanding ode to fortysomething inertia, Greenberg, and could almost be the epigraph or kickstart to his follow up While We’re Young which homes in on the actual travails of a middle-aged couple who briefly dabble in a ‘cool’, youthful New York lifestyle.

If, in truth, the actual narrative never truly breaks free from Baumbach’s conceptual concerns, it’s still a really interesting watch just because those ideas are so prescient, and actors of the ilk of Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts and Adam Driver prove exceptional with this type of material. Driver in particular showcases his skill – what I like about him is that beneath the clear methody tics there’s a really truthful performer.

At its best, While We’re Young totally nails its zeitgeist thesis on this generational clash – best outed in the perverse recognition that, in especially well-heeled metropolitan folk, it’s the younger ones who love the analogue nostalgia and hate the tyranny of mobile phones, while the middle-aged folk have become inexorably wedded to the ‘convenience’ of technology in all its forms. What’s inherently true though amid the film’s politicking is the sense that these Millennial youngsters – having grown up in this postmodern, digital culture where they can consume anything at the touch of the button – possess a disarming precociousness but also the nagging feeling that they “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Baumbach only slightly lets himself down dramaturgically by over-selling his rhetorical ironies. For example, having Naomi Watts’ in-crisis wife rushing from the aural trauma of a screaming baby party to a pumping hip-hop class is a touch obvious. That aside, this is another of Baumbach’s highly enjoyable social critiques, and one of the early perceptive cinematic looks at the socio-culture we’re fast creating. (March 2017)

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