“For the first time in my life I've stopped thinking of myself as a child imitating an adult.”
This is my fourth Noah Baumbach film and up to now I have enjoyed all his movies although I still think Frances Ha is his best possibly because Greta Gerwig is the perfect match for delivering the lines he writes. His screenplays are unique and he writes about things he knows and experiences by living in New York. His characters come out as hipster and snarky most of the time and for that reason it’s hard to enjoy hanging around them, but the way Baumbach approaches the material makes the experience an interesting one. Despite writing his films as comedies, Baumbach is concerned with being honest and arousing deep emotions in his audience. In While We’re Young Baumbach also includes the familiar topic of aging, but he does so with his own unique style. In a great scene we see the older generation messaging each other in their latest iPhones, watching series in their Apple TV, and listening to music in their iPods, while the young and cool kids are going vintage listening to old records, playing board games, and watching video tapes in their squared TV. It was an interesting commentary on how at times we struggle to keep up with technology to continue looking young, while the hipsters go out of their way to try to stand out by bringing things from the past but as hard as they try they never do turn out to be very sincere and authentic or as cool as they’d like to be. This generation gap is honestly explored by Baumbach and he does so with his classic comedic touch.
In While We’re Young, Baumbach introduces us to a mid aged married couple, Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) who unlike most of their other married friends haven’t had children. In a way it does affect their friendship with other couples their same age because they can’t relate in the same way. Josh also happens to be a struggling documentarian who has spent the past ten years trying to finish his latest film. He also gives courses and it is during one of those lectures that he befriends a young couple, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried). They are hip and cool kids who seem to be living spontaneously. Darby even makes her own ice cream. When Jamie praises John for one of his earlier documentaries, he quickly takes a liking for the kid and accepts an invitation to hang out with them. Jamie himself is an aspiring documentarian and Josh decides to take him under his wings and assist him. Both John and Cornelia befriend this young energetic couple and their lives begin to change. They enjoy the feeling of being able to look and act young again, but not everything is what it seems.
Ben Stiller has worked with Baumbach in the past and he sort of plays a similar character here. He is full of himself and seems to be discontent with the way his life is going. He is still at his dramatic best when working alongside Baumbach. It was fun to see his transformation once he befriends Driver’s character and even begins wearing a fedora to look hip. Naomi Watts is also great and delivers in her physical comedy scenes, especially in one where she is invited to a hip-hop dance class with Darby. Adam Driver also returns after his collaboration with Baumbach in Frances Ha and his character is very phony. From the moment he appears on screen you realize he isn’t as spontaneous as he claims to be. The film is at its best when it focuses on the dynamic relationship between these two couples, but it gets off course at times when it tries to be a commentary on artistic integrity. Baumbach didn’t seem capable of balancing those two themes and for that reason the later section of the film doesn’t work as well as the first half.