Director: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts & Adam Driver
Synopsis: A middle-aged couple’s career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives
Rating: 15 Run time: 97 minutes Release date: 27 July (DVD & Blu-Ray)
While We’re Young is director Noah Baumbach’s attempt at a cross-generational comedy. It’s central themes revolve around the onset of age and how the older generation have a difficulty associating with the youth of today, while themselves trying to remain relevant. The result is a mixed bag of awkward moments, genuinely funny gags and the age old of question of when is it acceptable to wear fedoras in public?
Time does indeed for wait for no man, and that is never more true than it is here with Ben Stiller’s New York based filmaker Josh. Josh and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) live in a nice apartment in upstate New York, which features all the latest mod-cons; Apple merchandise litters their abode, while modern technology plays a big part in their lives. They have everything, yet they have nothing, and even with their riches they appear to be missing something in their lives.
Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) on the other hand, are a young married couple keen to get close to Josh and his father-in-law (Charles Grodin). The two are the definition of hipster cool; everything in their apartment it retro, from the vinyl records, to the VHS tapes and even the typewriter that Jamie works from. The two couples are seemingly polar opposites in their approach to life, but are brought together in a seemingly chance encounter.
Josh and Cornelia take a quick liking to Jamie & Darby, and they begin to embark on several “dates” with the younger couple. Josh in particular strikes up a sort of bromance with Jamie, and begins to adopt a more youthful outlook toward life. While Cornelia also falls for the young couples charms and enlists herself in several new hobbies, the least of which is hip-hop dancing.
The lure of recapturing their youth is an offer that Josh and Cornelia cannot resist, but it is not without its drawbacks. The sudden burst of activity reveals a form of arthritis in Josh’s knee, while both he and Cornelia are pushed away by their baby-centric friends who, by the way, are beginning to worry about their friends new outlook on life.
It’s a feeling that will hit a familiar chord with viewers of a certain age. On one hand, there is a comfort and routine to everyday life that you accept as you grow older, but on the other hand is the spontaneity of youth and that feeling is hard to recreate. This is particularly felt early on when Josh and Cornelia threaten to drop everything and go to Paris but then proceed to worry about the complexities that would accompany it. While the film does acknowledge both sides of the argument, it never attempts to say that either is right or wrong.
Everyone, at some point will get to the stage in their lives where they feel completely disconnected from the younger generation. And that is something that is perhaps more keenly felt now than it has been before. Todays generation have grown up with being able to get whatever they want instantly with music, films and TV shows watchable at the click of a button. They’re used to instant gratification, and that is hard for older folks to take.
This is where While We’re Young really works; in identifying the differences between two generations of people who can feel completely detached from each other. The gags work, for the most part, and Ben Stiller is especially good as the middle aged documentary maker who has craved success for over a decade. Driver is also good and is creepily charming in his attempts to gain Josh’s attention. It’s a shame then that Watts and Seyfried’s characters are so underwritten. Neither one is given much to do, and unfortunately both play second fiddle to the male characters that dominate proceedings.
There are some pacing issues, and While We’re Young is not as consistently funny as was maybe hoped. But it does succeed in being a comedy aimed more for adults rather than the younger generation. People of a certain age will identify with the films themes, while anyone under 25 will likely find it hard to associate with the film whatsoever. But then, maybe that is the point after all.
In summary: While We’re Young takes a decent stab at highlighting the cultural differences in the modern age gap, and largely succeeds in that regard, even if it does take the odd tumble along the way.