While We're Young

UK Release Date 3rd April 2015
Director Noah Baumbach
Runtime 97 mins
Certificate 15
Reviewer Jo
Reviewed 14th April 2015

Youth, middle age and to some extent the meaning of life are all at the heart of writer director Noah Baumbach’s beguiling, cerebral and very funny latest film outing, While We’re Young

Josh and Cornelia are a middle class couple, he’s a documentarian, she’s a producer. They live their nice, if somewhat routine driven, lives in Brooklyn watching their closest friends grow away from them as they remain childless. They are not unhappy but are they fulfilled? The first world dilemma. Whilst teaching a course Josh makes friends with Jamie and Darby, both in their in twenties and of the firm belief that anything and everything is possible, the opposite of everything Josh and Cornelia have become. This new relationship energises the older couple but also creates cracks as Josh and Cornelia are forced to micro examine their own lives and their relationship begins to crumble under all the spotlight. However as the light that shone so bright also starts to highlight cracks and faults in Jamie and Darby everything starts to come into question.

It’s been a while since a film has kept me so thoroughly entertained whilst also making me think abut my own life – in a good way. If one is of a certain age, a certain class bracket that Baumbach focuses on (39+, white, middle class-ish and creative) I defy you to not find something that makes you go – oh, I / we do that. That’s not to say you need to be any of those things to find While We’re Young entertaining and funny, because it is. Very. 

Jamie is a confident, ambitious alpha male mixed with a caring, sharing, hipster that just wants to help everyone. It’s confusing but that’s a point Baumbach is making isn’t it? Modern life is confusing and who can ‘own’ anything any more in this instant society. Josh is obsessed with what is real what is truth but Jamie tips that on its head to suggest if the emotion is real does it matter if the journey is faked? What is real, what is intellectual property, what is intellectual theft?  It’s an interesting subject to bring up and Baumbach weaves both threads cleverly in the plot so that we are able to see both sides. Baumbach highlights the differences in the way the couples live in a clever cinematic way. We go back and forth to their apartments – Jamie and Darby live in a huge loft in Bushville whilst Josh and Cornelia inhabit a smaller apartment near the Brooklyn Bridge. The younger couple have records, books, art and strange nik naks. The older couple have order and minimalism and spend time engaging with screens, iPad or iPhones. The suggestion here is at this point in the film it is the young couple with the enviable lifestyle, the freedom the embracing of life. 

There are some extremely funny performances from the main cast, all of them are great but particularly Stiller and Driver steal the show. Stiller is good at playing these uptight neurotic types, we’ve seen it before but here is the best I’ve seen him in a long time. Josh isn’t a very nice character, a spoilt man-child, ungenerous and unable to see his own faults. He has been working on the same documentary for 8 years and isn’t listening to anyone’s advice or help. He has an awful relationship with Cornelia’s extremely talented documentarian father and he is, basically, a baby. There are countless laugh out loud scenes with Stiller, the cringe factor is high but he is just so, so good. Then to Jamie. All openness and thanks, constant creativity and Namaste. Street beach parties and shamanic mind opening rituals. Driver just absolutely nails this part. I am a HUGE fan of Adam Driver and have been since the very first time I saw him in Girls and he just goes from strength to strength. Driver imbues Adam with so many little touches that make up the complex, modern man Jamie is. The hands that touch together in a Buddhist thank you every time he manipulates Josh into doing what he wants him to do. Patronisingly earnest. It’s a clever performance to coerce into the audience into begrudgingly still liking Jamie despite all of these dubious actions.   

While we’re Young is somewhat of a bromance and undoubtedly Watts and Seyfried get less screen time and character development however the two of them make that time count and on screen they are captivating to say the least. I’ve never seen Watts so funny and so nice to see an actress older than 35 actually looking older than 35. This is not to say she doesn’t look great, she does, she looks amazing but she looks real, there are laughter lines and lines in general. It’s nice to see. Despite my belief that she is clinically insane, Seyfried is always an excellent actress and she doesn’t disappoint here. She imbues Darcy’s character with humanity and depth that in a lesser actor’s hands would have gone awry and she would have been a vacuous uninteresting twenty something who makes novelty ice creams. When Darby says to Josh ‘Jamie is in love with himself’ it is a perfect, heartbreakingly honest moment. Ryan Serhant has a scene stealing turn as Hedge Fund Dave, keep an eye out for it, I nearly dropped my Nachos I laughed so much. Also the wonderful former Beastie Boy (therefore a demi god anyway) Adam Horowitz is superb as harangued new dad Fletcher and Maria Drizza who you may know from Orange Is The New Black shines as new mum Marina. Lastly Peter Yarrow is just lovely as Cornelia’s father.   

The look of the movie is very specific of course being a Baumbach film. Baumbach has teamed up again with Frances Ha cinematographer Sam Levy. Levy says "despite the fact that the technology is digital, our intent was for 'While We're Young' to have a photochemical, silvery, analogue feeling." It has indeed got that. The light is different in each apartment. Josh and Cornelia have very little light in their tiny apartment under the Brooklyn Bridge whilst Jamie and Darby have light and space in their huge airy loft. Also typically from Baumbach the soundtrack is fantastic, with an original soundtrack by the great James Murphy and some great source music. 

In short:

While We're Young is Baumbach’s most fully realised and accomplished film to date. A hugely funny and intellectual look at growing old, the shifting notion of reality and truth and the eternally intoxicating lure of youth. How can you not love a film with a 40+ woman saying the line 'I don't want it to be, like, every time you take a hallucinogen you want a baby'. Awesome.

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