Director: Noah Baumbach (2015)
A couple are re-energised when they hang with trendy new friends in this New York comedy drama.
Filled with topical commentary about social media, it’s well-paced with an engaging cast delivering strong performances.
But though it’s inspired by the New York films of Woody Allen it lacks his sharp one-liners. Plus there’s too much tired baby-orientated observational humour on the difficulties and disappointments of parenting and there’s some even weaker stuff about fading eyesight and creaky backs.
The relationship of forty-something childless couple Josh and Cornella (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) is thrown into relief by the newborn baby of contemporaries Marina and Fletcher (Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz).
Horovitz is better known as a former member of the once controversial hip hop group The Beastie Boys. It’s an achingly-knowing in-joke which threatens to stifle this world of middle-class comfort in a cloud of an intolerable smugness.
As an antidote to ageing, unfulfilled and angst-ridden Josh starts to hang out with twenty-something hipsters Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) whose generosity of spirit gives a fillip to Josh’s career and home-life.
Josh is a documentary film-maker whose latest film is an attempt to explain America in all it’s complex economic, political and intellectual glory. Production has stalled, eight years into production.
Clearly Josh is a surrogate for writer-director Baumbach who is attempting to explore contemporary America but through the medium of comedy-drama instead. Maybe he’s not an interpretative dance sort of guy.
While We’re Young is an enquiry as to how the development of technology has changed society’s relationship itself.
This runs parallel with a critique of nepotistic Hollywood’s obsession with youth and it’s struggle to adapt or even understand the way young people interpret their online experience as part of their everyday life.
Then Baumbach throws in another baby joke to lighten the mood.
While Josh’s baby boomer father-in-law Leslie (Charles Grodin) once made documentaries with integrity, Josh is consumed by the process not the end product. Millennials such as Jamie and Darby are obsessed with the success of the end product – not the product itself. They’re happy to twist any truth to create an online buzz to achieve the success they crave.
Josh and Jamie begin a documentary project and as it proceeds Josh descends into paranoia and jealousy. There’s betrayal, infidelity, drugs, an all night gay bar, hallucinogenics and vomiting.
Cinematographer Sam Levy producers some great camerawork, tracing characters through the streets as they have conversations on the move. One lovely reverse tracking shot follows two characters cycling – the shot itself raises a smile even if the laboured humour doesn’t.
Writer Baumbach cleverly exploits the audience’s awareness of Hollywood script structure to deliver a couple of twists on a traditional finale. Plus he creates several frequently annoying but believable characters.
The exception is Jamie’s sexy flatmate Tipper (Dree Hemingway) who is woefully under-written. Played by the daughter of one-time Woody Allen muse Mariel, she’s reduced to a couple of ironically logo’d T shirts and demonstrates Baumbach hasn’t yet mastered Allen’s art of creating characters with a couple of deft brush-strokes.
It ends with another wry baby joke. As far as baby jokes go it’s not awful and is in tune with Baumbach’s themes but it’s predictable and not funny.
There’s no shortage of ambition or craft to admire in While We’re young, I just didn’t find the self-obsessed characters as interesting or amusing as the film itself does.
Blade Runner watch – the soundtrack is used during a purging ceremony.