'While We're Young'
Middle-aged Noah Baumbach just had his greatest success with ‘Frances Ha‘, which dealt with the plight of the twenty-something with warmth, compassion and good humor. Now he’s made a move that feels like artistic venting after that experience. ‘While We’re Young’ is about how worthless all those twenty-something kids are, and it’s pretty damn priceless.
The film is about a middle-aged couple’s obsession and disgust with a pair of twenty-somethings. Can’t be a coincidence, right? The lead characters are played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. Stiller is one-hit-wonder documentary filmmaker and Watts plays the daughter of a far more successful documentary filmmaker (the great Charles Grodin). Once they were happy, but now they’re stuck in a rut. Their friends have kids, but they don’t want any ankle biters. Instead, they start hanging out with a pair of 25-year-old kids (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) and pretend to be young. At first it’s fun, and then it’s decidedly not. The film is about adults who should know better trying to recapture the bad hats of youth before realizing that it’s far better to be grown-ups. Of course, that realization comes through heavy doses of irony, because nothing ever comes easy in a Baumbach film.
The script is packed with Baumbach’s deliciously barbed dialogue delivered by talented actors giving spectacular performances. Stiller is just as lost and listless as he was in ‘Greenberg‘, only somewhat likable this time. Watts earns some big laughs through sheer commitment, while Adam Driver delivers his second straight mock hipster in a Baumbach production. Amanda Seyfried actually acts, and Grodin is… well, Charles Grodin. (Thank god.)
Much like ‘Frances Ha’, ‘While We’re Young’ serves up a softer Baumbach without sacrificing his strengths. The filmmaker has found a way to remain harsh while delivering something resembling heart and does it without a single sentimental note. The new Baumbach is more pleasing without feeling pandering. It’s been a good career shift for the director, and now he’s on a roll that hopefully won’t stop any time soon.