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Review: While We’re Young


In homage to a scene of Mexican hallucinogenic drug-taking while dressed in white that ends with hours of (literal) vomiting of negative feelings, I’ll start by getting existential…

…..sometimes I wonder what reviews are for.

For me, they only help if I’m on the fence, I don’t need an affirmation about what I already know (case in point: I’ll watch a Ryan Gosling romcom no matter how awful it is, and irrespective of how many people tell me It Follows will change my life I am unlikely to ever see it).

So I could just write a review that says: “Hello. Watch this trailer and decide for yourself:”

And you may decide not to click the trailer, thinking that you’re more of a Marvel or a Jurassic Park 4 fan, and a sweet, Indie comedy about the cavernous gap that lies between educated American Generation Xers and Millennials isn’t for you. Fair enough. Stop reading now, my work here is done.

For those of you more open-minded, curious or who have accidentally found yourselves reading further despite your better judgement, here is my review, maybe it will sway you. When We’re Youngfollows Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as mid-forties documentary makers Josh and Cornelia. They live in a nice house in a New York borough filled with their contemporaries. Except their contemporaries have kids, whereas Josh and Cornelia don’t/can’t. Instead they drink wine, are confused by newborns and continue their safe life choices.

The couple inhabit this era of not knowing what to do next. They’re not parents, they have freedom, they’re happily married, but they never make extravagant choices. Peel back the layers and Josh is found to be creatively impotent, having worked on the same documentary for the last ten years, living in the shadow of his father-in-law’s success. Cue – conceit, a much-needed change comes from meeting Brooklyn hipsters Darby (Amanda Seyfried) and Jamie (Adam Driver). So hip it hurts, Darby and Jamie eschew googling things for trying to remember them. They cycle everywhere, don’t offer to pay for meals and keep their own chickens. I don’t need to tell you the rest, but it involves generational comparison and the First World Problem of struggling for a place in the modern world. Director Noah Baumbach only makes films of this nature – the type that hold a mirror up to affluent American culture and reflect all that is great, amusing and banal.

Living a career crisis of his own, Stiller has carved a deep groove of Greenberg derivatives in recent years, and Josh slots neatly into this category; whereas Watts seems to enjoy playing much dumber than she is. In truth they probably made this film for a favoured director allowing them to cycle to the set from their own New York brownstones (oh the irony). Seyfried has the most depth on screen, although she is still playing this for laughs, and Driver plays himself in every scene (that being said, he is always extremely watchable).

So, you’ve made it this far, should you see this film? Many parts are (drily) funny, yet it is a tender experience, raising pertinent and timely questions. Why shouldn’t you see this film? It may be putting a modern situation on screen, but it doesn’t tell us anything that The Kids Are Alright nor the Woody Allen back catalogue haven’t already. And for me, While We’re Young doesn’t go far enough. Why is it that in 2015 Americans still cannot comprehend life being perfectly lovely without children? Kids are not the missing puzzle piece for everyone, and Baumbach could have made a bolder statement by extolling the virtues of a childless life – rather than shying away from it.

In the end, this is a quaint gossamer-light comedy with its feet grounded in reality. I am glad that I saw it, but I wanted it to profoundly move me, and that just isn’t Baumbach’s schtick.


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