While We’re Young

Director: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, Adam Horowitz, Maria Dizzia

Rated: R (language)

A middle-aged couple’s career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives.

 

While We’re Young

By Cole Schneider

“While We’re Young” is smart, funny, and written with a lot of intention. Unfortunately it’s also a little too ambitious. Writer-director Noah Baumbach offers up some great dialogue, but he also gives us a product that is dramatically flimsy and not half as clever as it aims. The story follows a middle-aged documentary filmmaker played by Ben Stiller and his wife played by Naomi Watts as their marriage becomes reinvigorated through their new friendship with a young, lively couple.

Had “While We’re Young” been wise enough to concentrate on one or two narrative strands it may have been great, but instead we get a muddied, though very entertaining, mess of a product. It’s a film about a generational divide, growing old, staying young, marriage, parenthood, friendship, creative integrity, process vs product, mainstream product vs hipster product, and documentary vs fiction, among too many other things. The film is at its best when it’s relaxed and without any agenda. As it develops it becomes far less interesting and its third act manages to somehow be predictable, zany, and preachy all at once.

It’s Baumbach’s middle-aged autobiography and he comes across as a kind of grumpy old man, painting with broad strokes an aging generation as arbiters of values and truth and a new one that neither has values nor cares about truth at all. It’s more complex than that to be fair, but fundamentally this is the picture he has created. “While We’re Young” brings the intended laughs but lacks it’s intended profundity.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

 

While We’re Young

By Matt Greene

The older I get, the more I realize growing up and finding purpose doesn’t end at a certain age, and we only have so much of this life to enjoy. This overwhelmingly quick passage of time is looked at with humor and heart in 45-year-old director Baumbach’s (Frances Ha, The Squid and the Whale) most purely comedic film to date. Through hilariously relatable awkwardness and tons of misplaced conceit, While We’re Young presents a fear of aging that replaces gerascophobia with loads of laughs.

Stiller and Watts play a long-married filmmaking couple who befriend and ultimately admire a young artistic pair and their apparent zest for life. Through Baumbach’s smoothly prompt style, the story of these hipsters moves along quite nicely, readily mining their pretentious and absurd community for all the comedy it holds. The script is full of some great lines that show a witty understanding of adulthood in all its stages.

The cast also stands-out. I usually prefer Stiller in his more over-the-top roles (Zoolander), but he holds his own here. Watts is outstandingly cute, funny and honest; Driver is charmingly abrasive; and Horowitz, known more for his rapping than his acting, is so natural it’s hard to believe this isn’t his day-job.

These older actors and filmmakers are clearly speaking from life experience, as the film studies the unique difficulties of growing old in youth-obsessed Hollywood. However, the ethical ambiguities of success and the dangers of personal pretention are universal. With so much light-hearted spunk, WWY’s surface-y themes are swept up in its ageless charms.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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