Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Film Review: While We're Young



While We're Young is a dramedy by director Noah Baumbach; starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, the film sees a middle-aged married couple, Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Watts), rediscover the zest of life upon meeting a younger, cooler couple played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried.

Rapidly approaching their fifties, Josh and Cornelia are stuck in a shaky but steady marriage; Josh is struggling to complete a documentary film that he began work on long ago, whilst Cornelia is undecided on whether they should ever have children after suffering two miscarriages. Surrounded by their judgemental and parenting peers, the duo are finding themselves approaching a marital dead-end.

Whilst teaching a class at the local university, Josh meets Jaime (Driver) and Darby (Seyfried), a hip married couple who're only in their mid-twenties. Sharing a love for documentary filmmaking, the two guys quickly hit it off and it isn't long before the quartet are doing everything and anything together; awestruck at Jaime and Darby's outgoing and liberal outlook of life, Josh and Cornelia soon find themselves enjoying life more than ever.

Sweet without being sugary, poignant without feeling preachy, While We're Young is one of the best acted films I've seen this year, if not one of the most thought-provoking. Simply put, the cast are all excellent and really nail the unique tone of the film.

Not only is this the best thing I've seen Adam Driver do so far (until Force Awakens, let's hope) it's also a completely unexpected return to form for Ben Stiller; after plodding around in muddled melodrama like Walter Mitty and family fare like Night at the Museum, While We're Young is like watching a completely different actor. It's a much more matured role for Stiller, one that really sees him embrace his age and settle into something centred on emotional, character drama and not capuchin monkeys with bladder issues.

Naomi Watts is also excellent as his wife Cornelia; woefully miscast in 2014's St Vincent, Watts is pitch perfect here. And you know what? Her character had actual depth! This wasn't a one-man show with Stiller front and centre. Watts has a really great storyline concerning the expectation of motherhood and her resistance to the idea. I liked that the film presented this idea in a balanced, three-dimensional way as well - her choices weren't clear cut or simplistic.

Baumbach's film revolves around this idea of rediscovering youth and being a free spirit. The two couples share a lot of really great scenes together, and Baumbach uses cute little character details here and there to convey this message. They might be something really simple like the character's deciding who pays for dinner (Stiller insists, Driver doesn't protest), or the funky unconventional names that Driver and Seyfried give their kittens (Good Cop and Bad Cop) but they all feed into this really great blend of generational humour that actually flips convention on its head.

In one scene, the quartet are struggling to remember the name of something when Stiller whips out his iPhone and says he'll Google it, only for Driver to interject with "No! That's too easy. Let's try to remember it." They never do remember, and never bother to Google it either. It's a really simple yet effective moment that just sums up their whole relationship, which Baumbach follows with a quick montage showing further simple yet easily understood contrasts; Stiller and Watts sit in bed watching Netflix, or using a Kindle whilst the other two play board games and listen to vinyl.

It's simple, subtle and not skin-deep either; after introducing this binary, Baumbach plays around with how this affects both sides of the coin, with Josh and Cornelia ostracised by their peers and straining to keep up with their newfound best friends. That's until the ending of course; safe to say, not everything about the quartet's new friendship is plain sailing, and everything comes to a head in one brilliant scene shared between Stiller and Driver.

The film does take a little detour in the middle to deal with Josh and how his documentary movie is coming together; while the running joke about how long and awful it is was amusing, this strand did feel a little strung out. Not a detrimental point, but noticeable when viewing the film in retrospect.

The Verdict: 8.5/10


If you're looking for a change of pace and some genuinely witty and clever observational humour, While We're Young is worth your time. Brilliant acting, writing and directing infuse together and make this film highly recommended.

While We're Young is out on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD now. 

2 comments:

  1. Great review, and this sounds like a beautiful film. It's definitely making my 'to watch' list :)
    - Allie

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