Saturday, April 25, 2015

While We're Young: Movie Review


A somewhat funny but uninteresting examination of modern life.
While We're Young is Noah Baumbach's most recent film, re-teaming him with star Ben Stiller. It's a good match since Baumbach allows Stiller to be funny but grounds him into a more mature, substantial character. Here, unfortunately, Stiller's Josh was very subdued and lacked interest and intrigue and the other characters weren't any better. Josh is married to Cornelia (Naomi Watts) whose inability to have kids is the only interesting thing about her. 2014

Directed by: Noah Baumbach

Screenplay by: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts

Josh is a documentary filmmaker, who has been working on a movie for 10 years, and is viewed (by himself primarily) as the failed apprentice to Cornelia's father, Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin) – a highly accomplished and celebrated documentarian. But one day in class, Josh is approached by a young man, Jamie (Adam Driver), who has seen one of his movies. Josh is delighted by this and becomes fascinated by Jamie and his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried)'s lifestyle. Quite simply, they're hippies. They live in a loft, Darby makes and sells homemade ice cream, they have a substantial record collection, Jamie writes with a typewriter, and they believe that various drugs and concoctions will lead them to spiritual enlightenment. Comparatively, Josh and Cornelia are old and boring who read on their tablets and make plans before they do something.

Mature people pretending to be young and immature people pretending to be ageless is supposedly hilarious, but it really doesn't provide many jokes for the first half of the movie, or more. It's a whole lot of look at Cornelia and Josh trying to act like Jamie and Darby, and look at Jamie and Darby who are so cool because they're into cultures from before their time. Darby has this great documentary idea where he's going to use Facebook and then go and see the people (like real life!), to which Josh responds, “interesting, but I'm not sure it's enough.” Which matched my response to the film. Sure it has a few jokes, but there's got to be something more.

There is a vague semblance of an interesting plot that forms, but it ends up going nowhere. The “something more” is how Stiller's Josh starts examining why he thinks Jamie and Darby are so great, but what are their true motivations, and how can he be a better person. It works for a character study, but there's precious little else around it.

There is one scene where Josh is pitching his documentary in-progress to a potential financier – a very long, incredibly pretentious, intellectual examination of the working class – and he explains that he knows its very boring and uncharismatic, but if you keep watching, you enter another dimension. Which, again, feels like the very movie we're watching – it's boring, uncharismatic and uninteresting, and that somehow makes it funny. Like other recent movies examining society's modern technology culture, there are a few funny jokes but it's just not very interesting.

Similar Titles:

Frances Ha (2012) - Frances moves in annoying circles and gives the film too little direction.

Men, Women & Children (2014) - A drama about the dangers of modern life failed to create engaging characters.