Film review: While We’re Young

Noah Boaumbach (the man who gave us Frances Ha) is back with a new offering:

The movie follows a 40-something couple, Josh and Cornelia, played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. They feel disenfranchised from their peers who are having babies, because they have no plans to do the same.

Enter Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), a couple twenty years their junior. Jamie is an aspiring documentary film-maker and a big fan of Stiller’s character, who has the same vocation. It doesn’t take long for the two couples to start hanging out, with Josh and Cornelia re-energised by their new, younger chums. But eventually Josh starts to suspect that his new best mate might not be as straightforward and trustworthy as he thought.

The film ticks along nicely at just over 90 minutes. Stiller and Watts deliver their roles well. They are believable and it’s easy to like them and care about them. Jamie and Darby, not so much. They are hipsters, but they are absolute caricatures of hipsters. It is as though Boaumbach has thrown in every visual sign he can think of to really ram home the point about just how bohemian and quirky these people are. They ride fixies. They live in a warehouse. They watch old VHS tapes instead of DVDs. They play board games. She makes her own ice cream. They have a pet chicken. Their housemate wears ironic t-shirts. And so on. It feels like the pudding has been somewhat over-egged.

Having said that, the dynamic between the two parties is good. There is some well-observed humour in the differences between old(er) and young(er) and some fun moments (Watts going to hip-hop dance class, for instance). Indeed, it will strike a chord with anyone who feels more youthful than their birth certificate suggests. The scene in the doctor’s office about Josh’s arthritis is especially funny. However, the more the narrative focuses more on the professional discord between Josh and Jamie, the less interesting it becomes. The best aspects of While We’re Young involve the juxtaposition between the two generations, so it feels like a bit of a shame that the third act increasingly focuses on the fact that one of the characters is just a bit of a dick.

There’s certainly enough here to entertain, and the script feels both sharp and natural, as you would expect from Boaumbach. It’s a gentle indie comedy with an a-list cast, which is pleasing enough. But it also feels, like somewhere hidden within this idea, there is an absolute gem of a film and, while decent, While We’re Young isn’t quite it.

bobby townsend


Review by Bobby Townsend.