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While We're Young (Ben Stiller) - DVD Review

While We're Young

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IF Noah Baumbach’s previous collaboration with Ben Stiller was the patchy Greenberg, then their reunion for While We’re Young proves a much happier collaboration.

Often piercingly insightful, yet capable of being both poignant and funny, the film is essentially a relationship drama that poses pertinent questions about the nature of middle age and youth.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts star as Josh and Cornelia, a childless New York married couple in their mid-forties, who have become stuck in something of a rut, both in terms of their relationship and with the former’s creative process.

As their other friends start to have children and cope with the demands of parenthood, Josh and Cornelia find themselves drawn towards a young hipster couple named Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), the former of whom is an aspiring documentary filmmaker who views fellow filmmaker Josh as something of an idol.

Initially, the friendship that follows provides Josh and Cornelia with a renewed vigour for life and love until it becomes evident to Josh that Jamie isn’t as straightforward and trustworthy as he thought.

Baumbach’s film certainly has an element of mystery to it, as Jamie’s true motivations for befriending Josh become clear, but it works best when examining the generational divide and focusing more on attitudes and relationships. It’s here that the writer-director’s observations prove particularly astute, whether lambasting the over-reliance on social media or commenting on the pitfalls of parenting.

He also includes some wry observations on perception: how the middle aged view youth and vice versa; while also questioning the value of youth at the same time. It means there is plenty for the viewer to consider while watching, not just in the relationships that unfold on-screen but also how they may be able to relate to your own life and experience.

In doing so, Baumbach also puts forward some of his most intriguing characters to date… fully rounded and wholly flawed individuals who feel genuine. Stiller is excellent as Josh, a frustrated documentary filmmaker whose own hook-ups have come to something of a head, but who is striving for acceptance on any level, as well as the ability to retain the exuberance of youth. His attempts at being as hip as Jamie are often embarrassing to watch.

But Watts is good value, too, as his equally confused wife, attempting to get on with a life that won’t necessarily be able to provide the children she once craved, and examining her own place in the scheme of things.

Driver does the hipster thing well and is suitably charismatic and dubious at the same time, while Seyfried – though slightly less well served by the material – still has a key role to play in the development of the story and makes the most of a slightly under-written role.

Just occasionally, the same air of pretension that marred some of Baumbach’s other films (such as Greenberg and especially Margot At The Wedding) threatens to rear its head here but the director always manages to pull things back, perhaps benefitting from a greater maturity and perspective he now has as a filmmaker.

The result is arguably his most accessible and enjoyable film yet – and one that speaks to both generations in fascinating ways.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 94mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: July 27, 2015