While We're Young
- Emma Simmonds
- 19 February 2015
Glasgow Film Festival: Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts star in Noah Baumbach's latest
The threat of the young is at the centre of writer-director Noah Baumbach's perceptive, funny and cringingly honest eighth film, whose satirical swipe reaches across the age spectrum. It follows a cross-generational friendship which inspires adulation, frivolity and anxiety. Although it fizzes with energy and assumes the guise of a carefree farce, While We're Young is most notable for its intellectual ambition, taking in such subjects as aging, cultural appropriation and ownership, artistic manipulation and the quest for truth.
Life's disappointments have left documentarian Josh (Ben Stiller) and his film producer wife Cornelia (a game Naomi Watts) facing a crossroads. They're alienated from their baby-making peers and have become too set in their ways to take advantage of their childfree existence; the deluded, defeatist Josh concludes, 'We have the freedom, what we do with it isn't important'.
The flailing duo fall under the spell of a hipster couple in their mid-20s – aspiring documentarian Jamie (Adam Driver) and ice-cream maker Darby (Amanda Seyfried), with the pair introducing them to both new experiences and old-fashioned ways of doing things, and the older couple feeling energised by association. Jamie flatters Josh's neglected ego and they begin to collaborate creatively, before jealousy, ambition and duplicity threaten to derail the burgeoning bromance.
As ever, Baumbach's characters routinely indulge in unabashed self-analysis in this solo-penned effort, whose visual pep is nicely set against its waves of cynicism. However, the dialogue and characterisations occasionally feel on the nose and, despite the presence of two prominent women, it's missing an authentic female voice, with the male characters coming across as more credible and better explored (a disappointment after the joyous, female-focussed Frances Ha, which Baumbach wrote in collaboration with Greta Gerwig).
Still, the observations about artistic endeavours, fear of being usurped and the difficulty of finding your groove are shrewd and it's cannily cast. If anything, the idea-rich While We're Young tries to do too much but its aspirations are admirable and it reaches considered conclusions. This is an entertainingly garrulous film for those who find words much more interesting than action.
Screening at Glasgow Film Theatre, Thu 19 Feb, as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2015. General release from Fri 3 Apr.