Noah Baumbach’s latest solo effort since 2012’s Frances Ha, While We’re Young is a portrait of a middle aged couple stuck in a generational rut. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a couple who befriend twentysomethings Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried in an attempt to recapture their youth.
This middle-aged comedy has painfully tragic elements to it, at times it even feels profoundly sad, if it wasn’t juxtaposed by Baumbach’s inventive narrative as Ben Stiller makes a fool of himself to win the admiration of a younger man, after being won over by the more productive, hipster documentarian.
Stiller plays Josh, a once up and coming documentarian who has reached the point of stagnation in his career, relationships and social life. After spending 8 years working on a documentary he has lost his way. At which point Jamie (Driver) and Darby (Seyfried) attend one of his lectures and he becomes intoxicated by the inquisitive youth. They seem to know and admire his work while producing fresh ideas of their own, they have no fear in trying and failing, and Josh along with his wife Cornelia (Watts) feel rejuvenated by their enthusiasm.
What Baumbach has produced here is an insightful take on insecurity. Cornelia and Josh’s childless relationship has left with surrounded by couples who have settled down, who have traded nights out for nights in. Their conversation revolves around babies and why have they not gone ahead and had one already. What is so enticing about Driver’s character Josh is that he represents the modern youth, he is fearless, tactless, conceited and carries an entitlement of a much more successful man, without earning any of it. He is one of the easiest Baumbach characters to admire and at the same time loathe, and Driver plays him perfectly, shedding the rom-com persona he has been assigned due to the success of Girls and various cameo appearances to play quite frankly a self –obsessed asshole.
Although this film does not carry the same satisfaction or joy that came with Frances Ha, Baumbach does seem to have a knack for exposing the stereotypes that come with the aging process and examine them for their absurdity. In Frances Ha, Frances was a twentysomething unable to figure out what she should do with her life, and in this similarly Cornelia and Josh have come to a crossroads in their lives where they need re-evaluate and have some growing up to of their own to do. This film is excruciatingly funny, a window into the lives of couples separated by a generation.. It is worth watching for Ben Stiller’s performance alone, as he seems at home in a role where he struggles with many insecurities, he brings a foolishness and quality to the role that only he could. His on screen squabbles between a younger, more talented man in Adam Driver are incredibly pleasurable to watch as we find something onscreen that we can identify and loathe about ourselves in both men.
Written by Will Harper