D/W: Noah Baumbach. DP: Sam Levy. Starring: Ben Stiller/Naomi Watts/Adam Driver/Amanda Seyfried/Maria Dizzia/Adam Horovitz/Charles Grodin/Matthew Maher/Dree Hemingway/Brady Corbet.
Indie cinema darling Noah Baumbach’s new film, While We’re Young, is a charming yet uneven exploration of the generational gap between the 40s and the 20s. Lacking the kinetic energy that made his 2012 film Frances Ha memorable, Baumbach falters here in his new “little” movie.
While We’re Young centers on 40s aged couple Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) whose best friends have just had a baby. Feeling childless and antsy about their marital routine they spontaneously agree to have dinner with a young couple you are auditing Josh’s continuing education class on documentary. This soon leads to new friendships and cliched, yet charming scenes of the older couple feeling, well old, and the younger couple looking, well fresh.
While We’re Young is almost two films in one. The first half is mostly similar to the trailer as it chronicles the budding friendship between the different generations of couples. All the laughs are in this half with the latter part not really about the disillusionment with the younger generation, but about the manipulation experienced by Stiller’s Josh. As Josh helps young Jamie (Adam Driver) with his own documentary truths come to light that the film starts to hammer into you rather like a persistent woodpecker.
What is ultimately fun about the film is Driver’s performance as New York egotistical hipster Jamie and his “putting Baby in the corner” act with Amanda Seyfriend’s Darby. The grass is always greener mentality is clearly the driving force of the film, but Baumbach encourages it to go even further into questions of integrity, honesty, and partnership. Watts and Stiller have decent chemistry with each other and the growing pains of their relationship, along with the younger couple, encourages the audience to find their own place in the film. A nice sentiment, but it cannot sustain While We’re Young past its preliminary gimmicks.