While We’re Young
Noah Baumbach’s bitter little filmmaking pill has never been wildly popular, but he’s been surprisingly consistent enough to earn and maintain a healthy cult of support. That small audience of angry people with a sweet tooth for bitter comedy should be quite pleased by the writer/director’s latest effort, particularly after Frances Ha. Baumbach’s previous directorial effort verged so close to optimism and crowd pleasing that folks might have complained something was wrong were it not so good. While We’re Young continues the trend of Baumbach injecting glimmers of positivity into his caustic comedies and also feels like a bit of therapeutic satire after Frances. Last time out, Baumbach made a film about 20somethings that gently mocked their foibles while showing considerable warmth and understanding. This time, the middle aged Baumbach has made a movie about a middle aged couple’s obsession with and ultimate disgusted rejection of a pair of 20somethings. Can’t be a coincidence, right?
The couple in question are Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. He’s a documentary filmmaker with one hit and one 8-year failing production under his belt. She’s not-coincidentally the daughter of a famous documentary filmmaker (Charles Grodin!), and together they’re a once happy couple in a rut. Their friends have kids, but they don’t want any. So instead they make friends with a pair of 25-year-old kids (Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried) and pretend to be young again. At first it’s fun and Stiller even tries collaborating with Driver. Then it’s not and Stiller even tries to ruin Driver’s film. It’s a movie about grown ass adults who should know better trying to embrace the bad hats and childish bicycles of youth before realizing that it’s probably better to at least pretend to be a grown up. Of course, that realization comes through an ironic revelatory chase climax because nothing ever comes easy in Baumbach land.
The movie is filled with the director’s usual barbed dialogue (ex: “I don’t want it to be that every time you do hallucinogenic drugs, you want to have kids.”) delivered through some spectacular performances. Stiller is just as lost and listless as he was in Greenberg, only likable. Naomi Watts gets a surprising number of laughs through sheer commitment, while Adam Driver delivers his second straight hipster parody in a Baumbach joint, Amanda Seyfried actually does some acting, and Charles Grodin is…well, Charles Grodin. Much like Frances Ha, While You’re Young serves up a softer Baumbach than we’re used to. He’s found a way to balance his harshest impulses with something resembling heart and does it without ever hitting a sentimental note. It’s been a good move, one that got him the most positive reception of his career last time, which should continue here. At least his blade has only been dulled, not smoothed. (Phil Brown)
Thursday, September 11, 11:30am, Visa Screening Room (Elgin)