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While We're Young - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
While We're Young
Directing: A-
Acting: A-
Writing: A
Cinematography: B
Editing: A-

While We're Young probably isn't for everyone. It's perhaps tailor-made for anyone between their late thirties and their mid-forties. Assuming that to be the case, I fall squarely into that target demographic, and for once, director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha</i>) doesn't make his characters almost pointedly quirky or odd. His other films succeed in spite of such elements; by contrast, While We're Young is perhaps his most straightforward film, told in the most conventional way -- and, almost ironically, that turns it into his best.

But I have to cop to my complete lack of objectivity here. Not that any movie review is truly objective; anyone who pretends they are is just posing. But I have to insert myself into this one more than usual, because this film spoke to me in such a specific, almost visceral way. Josh and Cornelia (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) are 44 and 43, respectively, childless and feeling aimless in a world of aging friends with kids and struggling with the status of their middle-aged selves. I may be half a decade younger than they are, but these themes still tap into deep-seeded emotions of a particular age group that no other movie pinpoints in quite the same way.

Josh teaches a class about documentary filmmaking rather than actually getting closer to finishing the film he's been working on for eight years, and in his class he meets twentysomething couple Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried -- both of whom, incidentally, are actually near or past thirty). The two couples form a friendship, both Josh and Corneia seduced by their youthful energy and apparent generosity, even though Josh keeps having to pick up the check when they go out.

In their own ways, Jamie and Darby are playing this naivete regarding "kids these days" to their own advantage. One could argue that there's something pretentiously post-modern about Jamie and Darby's deliberately analog, pseudo-hippie lifestyle, making them actually unlike most young people in the real world -- in this movie, it's the Gen-Xers who are slaves to technology. But that's beside the point. As Josh says, before meeting Jamie, the only two things he ever felt were "wistful and disdainful." While We're Young is about the power of hope and potental, however disingenuous it might be, to those of us with just old enough to feel some default disillusionment with life in general.

The young bring new creative energy, but they also do some stupid shit. Older generations who try to emulate them look evern stupider. Baumbach uses this movie not so much to make that point as merely to reflect it, with actors perfectly cast to tell the story with just the right subtlety and humor. There are even plot turns that evoke tons of other movies in a way Baumbach's films usually don't, unly to subvert them in surprisingly satisfying ways. Even his approach to conventional storytelling isn't quite as conventional as it seems.

There's plenty to nitpick at here if you really want, but in the case of While We're Young, it's the spirit of the story that matters. And there is a spirit here unique in cinema and worth watching -- for all ages, but especially for those of us in the middle stages of life. Some lines seem a tad on the nose at first, like Cornelia saying she feels "like a kid playing an adult." Naturally Josh replies, "You feel that way too?" But there's something about the presentation here that feels like genuine representation of a particular feeling at a particular age. Rarely is a movie just as authentic in its representations as it is entertaining.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts confront their aging selves in WHILE WE'RE YOUNG.

Overall: A-
1 comment or Leave a comment
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: May 12th, 2015 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really enjoy Noah Baumback movies. They connect with real-world issues and at least give me
1 comment or Leave a comment