While We’re Young is directed by Noah Baumbach and stars Ben Stiller (Josh) and Naomi Watts (Cornelia) as a married couple in their mid 40s. Josh is a documentarist who is struggling to finish up a film he has been working on for nearly a decade. We see him giving a lecture on documentaries at some college in the beginning of the movie and he meets these younger couple in their mid 20s who approach him and tell him how much they admire his films. The younger couple, Jamie and Darby, are played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Jamie is an aspiring documentarist who is trying to learn a thing or two from Josh. Once the younger couple enter the older couple’s lives, we start to see a generational gap and the younger couple start influencing Josh and Cornelia and they start to remind them very much of their younger selves. Josh and Cornelia are constantly impressed and envious of how free and imaginative the younger couple are in how they live out their lives. After watching this movie randomly on amazon prime, I looked up what other movies Noah Baumbach has made because the tone of this film felt very familiar. To my surprise, I had seen two of his recent movies, Greenberg & Frances Ha. Ben Stiller and Adam Driver have worked with the director before in these films. Noah is known for making independent off kilter dramatic comedies that usually involve but are not limited to characters going through a crisis or dealing with growing older. While We’re Young is his best work to date as it explores generational differences, technology and authenticity combined with the idea of success in an entertaining and thought provoking manner.
This film is not laugh out loud funny apart from one scene where Naomi Watts is taking a hip hop dance class; her comedic chops were in full display in that scene since she seems so out of place but she still manages to do her own thing. Whenever I think of Naomi Watts I automatically think about David Lynch’s psychological thriller Mullholand Drive and just imagining her character in that film loosen up and dance the way she did in While We’re Young puts a smile on my face. The humor in this film is very subtle and is guided by an intelligent script that puts forward all these ideas that the director is trying to convey with these characters. There is one great scene where the older couple are at the younger couple’s apartment and they are trying to remember the name of an ice cream flavor they just described and Josh immediately pulls out his phone to look it up, but Jamie tells him that that’s too easy. Darby says let’s try to remember the name, so all four of them sit in silence racking their brains for a whole minute and when Josh insists that they should just look it up, Jamie responds brilliantly “let’s just not know what it is.” This film draws a hilarious comparison between the two couples in a montage about technology; we see Cornelia on her kindle and Josh watching the daily show on his phone and streaming movies on his smart TV. Jamie on the other hand writes a letter on an old type writer and watches an old movie on a VHS tape while his wife is listening to vinyl. The older couple are tech savvy while the younger couple are in love with everything in the past. This film is so accurate when it comes to its commentary on millennials and how the older couple’s lives are so routine and mundane, having met the young couple they complain that they’re not as exciting and energetic as they once were. At the beginning of the film we see Josh and Cornelia with their closest friends, another couple of their age who have a baby. These couple start noticing that Josh and Cornelia are starting to dress up differently and are into different things that aren’t necessarily meant for someone their age and consider the younger couple that Josh and Cornelia are hanging out with as babies despite the fact that they are in their mid 20s. Most of the couple at their age have kids and this makes them feel left out since all their friends’ lives revolve around their babies and nothing else. They have tried to have kids but Cornelia has had miscarriages and they have both decided that they don’t want children.
The film also deals with Jamie’s idea for his new documentary which is simply spontaneity in regards to the way he wants to make this film. He says he has never had a Facebook account so his idea is to create an account and seek out and interview the first person that befriends him and see where things go from there. Josh who is a more experienced documentarist thinks he should brush up the idea more to know how the film will turn out. However, Jamie’s idea quickly starts to payoff and Josh starts to envy Jamie’s carelessness in his film making process, since Josh’s process is more thorough and calculated which has left his film in shambles. Josh’s documentary has been in the making for such a long time that he is going through a crisis since nothing is going right for his project. He has about 6 hours of footage and when asking for advice from his father in law who is also a film maker he tells him that while there is good material in there the film is about 7 hours too long, which is a heavy but necessary criticism. Another idea that this film explores is authenticity, in this case in regards to documentaries. Does every shot have to be unscripted and in the moment? Josh seems to think so since he discovers that the way Jamie came about the idea for his documentary is fabricated but the actual story he is trying to tell is very much real. Josh’s documentary consists of numerous interviews with an old historian which were described by his father in law as simply boring. He is slowly coming to the realization that he may have wasted all his time and effort on this one project that may never see the light. There is tension slowly building between and within the two couples, and that makes for an intriguing drama that keeps getting better with a satisfying ending. I adored this movie, the actors did a great job at playing realistic characters and the film is occasionally funny and insightful. (9/10)