09242017Headline:

“While We’re Young” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux

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“While we’re Young” is a coming-of-age comedy for Generation Xers and follows the story of a couple in their mid ‘40’s who attempt to revive a spark of youth by hanging out with some very cool newfound friends who happen to be in their ‘20’s.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts star as Josh and Cornelia, a married couple who appear to be basically lingering in their existences. They’ve attempted to have children, but have ultimately failed, which sets them apart from their close friends Marina and Fletcher (Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys) who seem to be reveling in the parental cycle of their lives. Meanwhile, Josh keeps himself busy professionally as a documentary filmmaker. The only problem is, he’s been working on the same project for a decade, and can’t even afford to pay his assistant. To make ends meet, Josh conducts documentarian seminars where he is befriended by hipsters Jamie (Adam Driver) and his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried), the former of which claims to be a fan of Josh’s earlier efforts. Thank goodness someone enjoyed the class, since poor Josh couldn’t even get his power point presentations to project upon the screen!

Jamie and Darby “invite” Josh and Cornelia to lunch (never mind that Josh is left holding the tab), where we find out that Jamie is an aspiring documentary filmmaker himself. Josh sees a version of his own self in Jamie, or rather the direction that he wishes his own life could have gone. The two men become quick friends; in fact both couples turn out to be inseparable. Soon, they’re partaking in “cleansing” ceremonies conducted by shamans, and Cornelia is attending hip-hop dance classes with Darby and before you know it, the two are virtually unrecognizable by their other friends. After Josh agrees to help Jamie film a documentary based on a Facebook friend request (I kid you not), it becomes evident that Jamie and Darby might not exactly be the people that they initially seem. This film also features screen veteran Charles Grodin as Leslie, Cornelia’s father – a man who HAS found great success in documentaries and may hold the key to Jamie and Darby’s sudden inclusion into the lives of his daughter and son-in-law.

What really shines here are the gags that are clearly scripted for the thinking class. A lot of the situations and maladies that Stiller’s character is confronted with hit particularly close to home, especially to someone who happens to share his generation. Such is the scene where he pays a visit to his doctor for knee pain. The physician diagnoses it as arthritis. Josh asks if he means “arthritis, arthritis?” Yes, the doctor replies, although he usually only says the word once. And there’s an uproarious scene between Josh and one of his financial backers, where he is explaining his vision for the film and why he needs more money to complete his project. Let me just say that when the common sense fairy was handing out certificates, this guy was clearly not present. Josh explains that in an important scene, he wants to convey to people what the subject of his film is thinking, to which the backer replies “How do you intend to show that, with cartoons?” There’s also a great scene in this film where there is a montage clash of two generations in terms of technological advances, however it’s the opposite of what you might expect. At a visit to Jamie and Darby’s place, Josh admires his amazing record collection and quips that he has certain selections at home on cd. Jamie also collects films on VHS, including “Citizen Kane,” and owns an old school television set. Contrast that with Josh at home surfing Netflix on his smart TV. I guess the point that Baumbach is trying to make here is that those who aren’t “connected,” so to speak, are even more so when it comes to life and vice-versa.

“While we’re Young” is written and directed by Noah Baumbach, the man responsible for such intelligent, adult-oriented comedies as “The Squid and the Whale,” “Margot at the Wedding,” and “Greenberg,” the latter of which reunites him with Ben Stiller. Baumbach has proven that he is a smart filmmaker who knows how to make comedies for smart people and this film is no exception. If you’re a fan of low-brow humor, this film isn’t for you. But if you prefer your laughs fresh with a good dose of poignancy, then look no further.

 

*** (three out of four stars)

 

 

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