Ben Stiller is old and grouchy, Adam Driver is young and fun. How will the two coexist? Luckily this isn't that sort of movie.
While We’re Young is the story of a middle aged couple challenged in their slow aging by an exuberant young couple full of life and excitement, but its actually not. While We’re Young is a film about artistic vision and creativity through the eyes and drive of different generations, but again, it sort of isn’t really. Noah Baumbach has but to film a creation about everything and nothing, a film that pontificates on multiple concepts but never truly comes down with a ruling about anything. To do this he has assembled an amazing cast of capable performers and given them something to really chew on. Luckily then, the film is captivating and engaging throughout and leaves you with questions.
While We’re Young finds middle aged documentary director and producer (but never together) couple Josh and Cornelia (Stiller and Watts) reaching a moment of realisation in their lives as everyone around them starts to have children. Enter Jamie and Darby (Driver and Seyfried), a couple of 25 year old Brooklyn Hipsters living a dream of drugs, strange pets and wonder. Captivated by them, the four form bonds and entwine themselves in each others lives, Jamie looking to learn from Josh about film making and Cornelia and Darby learning about having fine and life from each other. Obviously this can lead to the realisation of a grass is always greener reality and the couples hit a fork in the road and eventually live happily ever after, but Baumbach has gone an entirely different way, skewing the film into being more about the interplay between the different generational views on art, ethics and generosity. He presents flawed characters with no clear hero or villain. Each character is played for realistic truth, our frustrations set with each individual as their acts and mistakes reflect our own and their revelations and truths being all too painfully real. Even as the film ends each audience member is left to pick out what they feel is most relevant to them and do what they want with the truth they have found.
Aesthetically, thematically and even aurally, While We’re Young harks back to Woody Allen’s New York films. Long passages of dialogue splayed in highly curated apartments or creative open play warehouses, the soundtrack giving us a collection of Bowie, hip hop and Vivaldi, we are even given an ideal look at New York, though through a more contemporary eye this time around. Baumbach plays the same notes that Allen has many times, anxiety of death, social isolation and infidelity among others, but there is more than enough to let Baumbach stand on his own two feet without suggesting this is an homage or plagiarism. Baumbach adds vitality and multiple threads to the piece that many of Allen’s projects have lacked. All of that said, if you have a fondness for Woody Allen, then you will find this film a delight.
Each actor shines here and Driver especially has a certain quality that lights up the screen. Stiller and Watts play their roles as seasoned professionals, Stiller being far more empathetic as he transitions from a comedic actor to a serious one. Seyfried isn’t afforded a huge amount of screen time, but encapsulates her character entirely, a joy to watch on screen. The four play off each other well, none of their interactions removing from the whole as you truly see this group entwine and unravel as the film continues.
I believe in attempting to find an audience for the film, the advertising for the film has ignored the depth of the subplots and real ideas of the film under the salable double date odd couple story the trailer looks to tell you. While We’re Young is much more about the world as it changes and how we as people have changed in that time. It’s never saying one thing is better than another and it even plays hard on the point that different things work for different people, never playing anyone as the villain. Baumbach has delivered another piece of art that will have me revisiting it later on down the track, especially as I experience both sides of the coin and seeing if life experience changes how I take the offerings he has presented.