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While We’re Young (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

While We're Young

While We’re Young


Starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, Brady Corbet, Adam Horowitz, Maria Dizzia, Matthew Maher, Dree Hemingway, Matthew Shear, Brady Corbet, Greta Lee, Bonnie Kaufman, Peter Bogdanovich and Peter Yarrow.

Screenplay by Noah Baumbach.

Directed by Noah Baumbach.

Distributed by A24.  94 minutes.  Rated R.

Is it merely a coincidence that Ben Stiller has made two good movies in the 2010s – and both of them were written and directed by Noah Baumbach?

Baumbach and Stiller first worked together in the criminally overlooked Greenberg, with Stiller playing a bitter aging failed musician who has to house-sit his rich younger brother’s LA manor, deal with nostalgia and the obsession of youth culture and ends up falling for the brother’s quirky assistant.  Greenberg was funny, smart, heartfelt and incredibly knowledgeable about life in Los Angeles.

Five years later, they take on New York with While We’re Young.  Once again it looks trenchantly at aging – Gen Xers coming to terms with adulthood while clinging to youth.

Stiller and Naomi Watts play Josh and Cornelia, a couple in their early 40s.  Josh is a documentary filmmaker who had a minor hit with his first film a decade ago and is now trying vainly to wrangle together his follow-up film.  He has been working on the film for years and has over seven hours of footage, but no real conception of the heart of the matter.  (Scenes where Josh tries awkwardly to synopses his opus are uncomfortably hysterical.)  Cornelia is a film producer whose father (played by the wonderful Charles Grodin) is a lion in the world of documentary filmmaking, everything that Josh wishes to be, and yet they do not get along at all.

Josh and Cornelia have been unable to have children and after a series of miscarriages have come to terms with the fact that they will never have children – though the way they keep explaining this over and over again shows the decision is a little more raw than they are willing to acknowledge.  Their best friends (Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz, also known as Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys, in a surprisingly good rare acting performance) are new parents of the “you’ll never understand life until you have a child” camp, so Josh and Cornelia are drifting away a bit.

Then, one day when teaching a course on documentary filmmaking, Josh meets a twenty-something couple Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), who are auditing his course.  Josh is an aspiring filmmaker and a fan, and quickly Josh befriends the cute, fun, hipster couple.

It is a lot of fun to see the basic differences of the generations.  Josh and Cornelia are obsessed with their iPhones and tablets, Chinese food and downloaded music, high-def TVs and their hip Brooklyn neighborhood.  Jamie and Darby are more freewheeling, living in a Harlem loft, collectors of vinyl and VHS tapes, hanging at street beaches and touring subway tracks, making and eating artisanal ice cream, creating their lives as a collage of outside sources.

However, quickly it becomes clear that the millennials have a bit more of an agenda than they seem, sending both couples into some dangerous waters.

While We’re Young is effortlessly funny and sharply insightful.  Even if it bogs down a bit at the end, it’s still a damned good film.

Hey Ben, take into consideration the idea of only doing movies with Baumbach.  No more Zoolanders or Nights in the Museum or Secret Lives of Walter Mittys.  You’ve finally found a writer/director who knows how to use your unique talents.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: March 27, 2015.


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