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WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Scott Rudin and Noah Baumbach
Written and Directed by Noah Baumbach
Starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, 
Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, 
Brady Corbet, Ryan Serhant, Maria Dizzia, Adam Horovitz

I initially thought While We’re Young was a movie ripe with potential—the cast and trailer are quite seductive, but I wasn’t thrilled by its digression into a satirical doof-fest of young versus old couples.

It’s funny for sure— Noah Baumbach’s script is witty and seems promising and smart. The timing and chemistry of the actors is spot on, however, there are too many storylines that don’t feel complete. And the central theme of authenticity is lost as it becomes an overly dramatized compilation of hyperbolic awkward moments.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play Josh and Cornelia—a 40ish year old couple, married, content, happy enough, but bored. They are revitalized when befriended by intensely intense hipsters, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried).

A beautifully shot film, While We’re Young is wistful and bright. Baumbach keeps scenes in perfect sync with the timeless soundtrack.

He addresses all the expected stereotypes of hipsters and old people.

The wardrobes are dapper and comedic – the hats donned by Driver and Stiller are just priceless. Stiller buys hipster glasses. Watts joins a hip-hop class. They snub their baby-obsessed friends and have way better sex. Darby makes weird ice cream. Jamie is attached to his Go-Pro.

They all listen to old records, VHS’s, and admire the oddities of their new friendship.

But while the skin-tight hipster jeans and dorky fedora are funny, their stereotypical purpose becomes almost obnoxious as the film devolves into an overly dramatic compilation of incomplete storylines.

The characters become caricatures. The jokes about young people being enlightened through their retro-lifestyle of vinyl and VHS’s, becomes more satirical than touching. Evil young hipster, immature old man, conflicted older woman, angry young lady. And the increased focus on the blatancy of mid-life crises is jarring and unnatural.

But perhaps Baumbach’s portrayal of these relationships is fitting. Maybe I was supposed to feel uncomfortable. After all, the main thematic element of While We’re Young, involves the issue of what the “correct” perception of reality really is. The characters are documentarians but are actually quite dishonest and deceptive to themselves and each other.

While Jamie and Darby appear carefree and insightful, they are self-centered and a bit mean—a fair depiction of many young people by Baumbach, I give him that. But the dichotomy between Jamie’s greedy motivation alongside the frantic tantrums of Josh is incredibly off-putting.

The same goes for Darby and Cornelia – they become depressed, hurt, and secretive. It’s a fairly sharp turn during the movie, rendering the second half rather boring and trite. If Baumbach had softened down that aspect, or at least eased in to the shift in tone, I think I would have been far more satisfied.

When We’re Young also features too many storylines and character motivations that are never resolved.

Is the motivating factor for the new found friendship between couples based on the fact that Stiller and Watts are being pressured to have children? Is it because they feel old and bored? Is it because they are insecure with their jobs and themselves and are trying to replace their mid-life crises with the naiveté of fleeting youth? How about a young man wanting to be the protégé of an old man? Maybe all. But it was too much for me.

And the lack of authenticity became annoyingly uncomfortable.

And maybe that was Baumbach’s point – shit is just not very genuine these days.

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