While We’re Young is a comic gem of an indie and a delightful surprise from Ben Stiller who delivers his greatest, most interesting work. Blending themes of creative unrest and creeping midlife crisis, writer and director Noah Baumbach strikes a vibrant, comic energy to depict a particular feeling of unfulfillment.
Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a childless couple in their 40s, enduring the company of their friends who parade their delightful offspring whilst delivering endless enquires into why they didn’t choose to fall into this same parental convention. Josh is a moderately successful documentary filmmaker in a creative rut, working on the same densely intellectual project for the best part of a decade, trying to pitch the necessity of a tangent on Turkish politics in his film about the interconection of economics, politics and the military in the last 50 years. “So it’s a black Shawshank?” snarks a producer, “It’s really about America” he attempts to surmise. Josh meets Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) after giving a lecture, with both youngsters claiming to be fans of his work. Befriending these 20-something counter-cultural hipster pinups awards Josh a new found energy and unlikely role models, with Driver’s gangly frame the perfect foil for Stiller’s midlife curiosity.
It is very, very funny, which is what you’d expect from Baumbach, a Wes Anderson collaborator and writer/director of indie comedy hits such as Noah and the Whale and Frances Ha. It’s undoubtedly more precise and more written than the latter and I lost count of how many times I laughed and that’s unusual. The comedy never loses sight of its characters who are absolutely central to the piece. While We’re Young is such an fascinating portrait of intergenerational desire and perspective. Jamie and Darby relax by playing vinyl and watching VHS, whilst Josh ponders their attachment to an ironic tshirt about an advert which aired before they could remember. Josh’s life seems to be back on track, with a new lease of life but doubt regarding the couple’s authenticity begins to creep in as the audience begins to question each move of a possible Catfish. Perhaps the end is a little too didactic and the women are not as razor sharp as their male counterparts, both Stiller and Driver’s casting is so accurate, acting as cutting emblems of their generation. Yet this is a profound, entertaining film about losing yourself creatively with a sensibility akin to Woody Allen at his best, as emotionally dominant as it is wryly comic.
Review by David Rank
While We’re Young is out now in the US and out on 03/04/15 in the UK. Running time 97 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).