CLOSE

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG Talking ‘Bout My Generation

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 9.54.18 AM

Directed by Noah Baumbach
Starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver

As more of their friends become parents, Cornelia (Naomi Watts) and Josh (Ben Stiller) start to find themselves growing more and more alienated from them. Unable to share this strange world of babies, feeding schedules and children’s songs, they begin to feel that something is missing, till one day a young couple enter Josh’s film class and strike up a conversation. Fresh, energetic and unafraid to experience life, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) represent a dynamism currently missing in Josh’s life. As they strike up a friendship, Josh and Cornelia start to explore the strange territory that is hipster cool, a world of VCR, break-dancing classes, ceremonial hallucinogenics and urban farming.

Baumbach pitches While We’re Young in the sweet spot, forming a nigh-perfect intergenerational comedy. It is about more than just a couple engaging in age-inappropriate behaviour as they attempt to recapture a youth they are unwilling to believe they have lost. Looking predominantly at the relationship between Gen X and Y, it could so easily devolve into laughing at hipsterism or Gen X’s inability to accept maturity, but it manages to move beyond these themes and to say something greater. In part this is due to a revelation about Jamie approximately half way through that shifts the film from light comedy to a somewhat darker and more complex tone, drastically changing the dynamics of the two couples’ relationship.

This change in dynamics allows for a more nuanced exploration of the desires of each generation (or perhaps merely the individuals representing them, or stage of life they are at – they are all tightly interwoven) as well as the more nebulous topics such as the nature of truth and what lengths should a man go to achieve his desire. Initially jarring, this tonal shift lends weight to this comedy, and allows for a stunning confrontation near the conclusion. Here we get these matters aired out at an award ceremony, each side stating their grievances and desires, all under the shadow of the generation of Baby Boomers (represented by Charles Grodin as Josh’s father-in-law and former mentor). It is a masterful convergence of editing and script, and the thematic core of the film.

Stiller and Watts are perfectly cast as the Gen X couple unable to accept their journey into middle age, each stalled by where they find them self. In contrast, Driver manages to skilfully portray an ambiguity about his character. Depending on the point of view, he is either open, enthusiastic and charismatic, or entitled, manipulative, and callous. His portrayal changes little, it is rather the audiences perspective that shifts, and we see him in differing lights.

Witty and poignant While We’re Young, presents a stinging commentary on intergenerational rivalry and the pains of growing older.

 

DAVID O’CONNELL