What makes us grow old — or at least middle-aged? Do domestic trappings like kids, mortgage and workplace drudgery change us, or is human ripening a purely chronological function? And will raging against generational shifts defeat the march of time or merely display those gaps in ever more stark relief?
The 400-Word-Review: While We're Young
By Sean Collier
April 14, 2015
So While We’re Young is a comedy, but not exactly a light one.
In Noah Baumbach’s film, Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are in their early 40s. They haven’t been able to have kids, but the lack of children suits them well enough; they’re losing their ability to relate to peers, however, seeing as they can’t seem to find a childless couple among them. When twentysomethings Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) sit in on a class Josh is teaching, the older man is enchanted by their carefree hipster lifestyle; as the couples begin to recreate and collaborate, complications arise.
For an hour, While We’re Young easily drifts between cross-generational comedy and earnest commentary on the differing philosophies of Generation X and the Millennials. This in and of itself is refreshing; we’ve seen very few generation commentaries that have resisted the urge to reflect the Boomers almost singularly (perhaps owing to the increasing age of many directors). And the quartet at the center of the film is delightful, each perfectly cast and pleasantly realized.
A third act diversion does partially neuter Baumbach’s intentions, unfortunately. Josh is a struggling documentarian, and Jamie an aspiring one; when Josh reluctantly agrees to help his young counterpart with a half-formed nugget of a project, they strike gold. But Josh begins to doubt that everything is on the up-and-up, and While We’re Young devolves into a mystery for half an hour or so.
It feels as though Baumbach was told to find a climax, and concocted a less-than-punctual excuse to get to one. And to be fair, if the third act was simply Josh and Cornelia getting tired of Jamie and Darby, it likely would’ve felt a bit thin. But all of While We’re Young’s memorable moments occur in its first hour, despite an overwrought attempt at a layered conclusion.
Fortunately, those earlier moments are enjoyable enough to at least partially forgive the film’s later shortcomings. I haven’t seen a Noah Baumbach movie that I absolutely loved, but I haven’t seen one that disappointed me, either. I’m pretty sure that’s good enough.
My Rating: 7/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark