Articles, Film Reviews

While We’re Young (2015)

There’s a sequence in While We’re Young that shows the contrasting uses of technology between Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia Schrebnick (Naomi Watts) and Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby Massey (Amanda Seyfried). On one side you have Josh and Cornelia, who are a middle-aged couple utilizing digital devices and music/video streaming services. While on the other side, you have Jamie and Darby, a twentysomething couple deeply enthralled by technology of yesteryear including vinyl records and VHS tapes. This sequence stuck out to me because of how it illustrates a technological midlife crisis within the Schrebnicks and a subcultural rebellion within the Masseys. It’s an insightful study of the generation gap between the two couples.

After all, While We’re Young is all about the differences between varying generations, primarily Generation X and Millennials. Through this study of interpersonal relationships with much regard to generationism also comes a reflection of filmmaking, as well as media in general. Director Noah Baumbach brings to life a film about film that is not so much about the filmmaking process but about the hardships a filmmaker goes through in his or her personal life. While We’re Young is very much in the vein of a Woody Allen film (Crimes and Misdemeanors comes to mind), but it is much more hip due to its focus on youth – thus illustrating an unintentional generational difference between Baumbach and Allen, which is similarly displayed in the film between Stiller’s character and Leslie Breitbart (a veteran documentary filmmaker portrayed by Charles Grodin).

The film follows Josh and Cornelia, who are beginning to feel alienated from their close friends who have just become parents. Searching for a bit of fresh air to reinvigorate their lives, Josh and Cornelia come across the ceaselessly energetic Jamie and Darby. However, while Josh is initially fascinated and somewhat obsessed with the lifestyle of Jamie and Darby, he soon suspects that the two aren’t exactly what they seem.

There is a definite twist in the movie, which I did not entirely see coming. I was expecting the film to be an articulate and somewhat preachy glance at a modern mid-life crisis with a fun soundtrack, which is pretty accurate except there is a dark underlying tone to the whole film that becomes more evident when things unfold towards the end. A lot of this tone comes from Stiller, who holds an angsty attitude in his character that starts off subtle and is then developed further. It reminded me of his excellent turn as Roger Greenberg in Baumbach’s Greenberg, while also containing hints of Jesse Eisenberg’s intelligently moody portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.

Ultimately, the film surprised me in more ways than none. Even though I’ve greatly enjoyed Baumbach’s previous directorial efforts, While We’re Young resonates the most. Perhaps that has something to do with my generational outlook. But whatever the case may be, it is apparent that Baumbach is in the renaissance of his career.


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