Noah Baumbach has spent so much time shooting around Brooklyn that the borough has become his own personal sandbox.
While We’re Young, Noah Baumbach’s sixth feature film, allows the director to expand his world all while remaining within the confines of it. While We’re Young isn’t the best film that he’s made, but its by far his most entertaining and accessible.
Where do you go when you’re naturally getting older but want to pretend you’re still young? Bushwick, of course. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play Josh and Cornelia, a childless couple in their mid-40s. Josh is a struggling filmmaker who can barely get the grant money to finish his documentary. Well, it is less that he can’t find the money, and more that he is too proud to ask. Josh and Cornelia find a reason to slither out of midlife monotony after meeting a young married couple.
That couple is Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), who are both in their mid-20s, seem like the kind of couple that got married because they thought it would be funny, but they have to make the commitment nonetheless. Jamie is an aspiring documentarian, while Darby is an ice cream maker (which I guess qualifies her as an artist). They’d be nothing more than a Portlandia sketch if not for the warm and genuine performances by Driver and Seyfried.
I am going to freeze this review very quickly to acknowledge Ben Stiller, because he is truly incredible at everything he does. He has a knack for playing characters who aren’t necessarily misfits, but are incredibly unadjusted to their surroundings. It is like watching every anxiety I have ever had come to life. He is like Woody Allen, but much less creepy.
While watching While We’re Young, its impossible not to get the sense that this film is just Baumbach trying to adjust to a changing world. Or anyway, a world that always seems different once you get older, no matter when you were born. One thing that often troubled me about Baumbach in the past was a painful sense of negativity. Starting with Frances Ha, he has found a way to inject negativity with a sense of wonder. Greenberg was about a guy yelling that he had no idea what he was doing. In While We’re Young, nobody knows what they’re doing, but at least they are blindly optimistic enough to think that they can somehow figure it out.
And this is one of the things I like best about While We’re Young: it is a comedy that understands the universal joke of life, in that as we get older we know less and less. While it is only playing in New York and LA this week, it is a mainstream indie comedy, and a sharp one at that. This isn’t the kind of indie comedy where a guy and girl exchange awkward glances and we’re supposed to uncomfortably chuckle at it. I don’t want to spoil it, but there is one satirical highpoint in the film that reaches South Park brilliance, the kind of thing where bodily functions are used to show how full of it a certain class of people can be. For a reference point, just remember the one South Park episode where everybody in San Francisco is smelling their own farts.
Baumbach pokes fun of them out of love, because this is a world that he clearly knows well (he’s a native Brooklynite). Even if these characters are a little pretentious and often not as smart as they think they are (the best example is a scene in which Josh tries to pitch his movie to a hedge fund manager), they never filled me with unnecessary anger. Even when they put on fedoras.
While We’re Young is about a very specific segment of the population (hipsters; yuppies), but its ideas are general enough to appeal to everyone. Who hasn’t been afraid of getting older? Who hasn’t been threatened by somebody younger than you, even when you are still young yourself? It doesn’t look at any of these questions simply, and everybody in their 40s is just as clueless as everybody in their 20s. I think a whole family could see this, and each member might connect to it in a different way.
Long story short, While We’re Young This is a film that perfectly captures the feeling of not fitting in at a dinner party.
Brain Farts From The Edge
- A lot of talk here about truth and authenticity as well as a documentary which has problems with “timelines.” It kind of sounds like what a lot of dummies said about “The Jinx” recently.
- Seriously, Amanda Seyfried is great. I always overlooked her, but I hope she gets more strong roles like this.
- Also, Darby is not a real human name. Well, I guess in Brooklyn it is.
- Adam Horovitz was good in this. I don’t know, I have no strong opinions about the Beastie Boys. However, I do support any and all Jewish hip hop artists.