While We’re Young is the new film by director Noah Baumbach, who previously directed The Squid and the Whale, which came out in 2005. This is supposedly a comeback movie and return to form, but frankly I don’t see what all the talk is about. I shall explain in due course.
The film’s two main stars are Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. They play forty-somethings whose lives have hit a rut. Stiller is a documentary film maker, who has been working on his latest project for eight years. Acting as a metaphor for his own life – his film has somewhat stalled to say the least.
We are then introduced to two twenty something hipsters portrayed by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. They are present at a lecture given by Stiller, and Driver professes to admire his previous documentary, despite the fact that it was not available to the general public. This impresses Stiller. What ensues is a burgeoning friendship between the two couples which sees the older pair attempting to reclaim the youth they thought was lost forever. This incorporates some funny scenes and the film seems to be rolling along nicely, but then everything changes.
Whereas the first half of the picture is a joy, the second is a hideous mishmash, which boils down into one ugly melange of scenes. The latter half is bogged down by a confusing, convoluted plot about Driver using Stiller to get ahead with his own movie making career. The gulf in quality between the two halves is immense. It is amazing that no one noticed the film had lost its mojo.
The movie – despite its glaring faults – is well acted. Stiller, Watts and Driver all play their respective roles well. On the other hand I was not impressed by Seyfried, who was crass and foul mouthed, and not in a funny way. The performance in While We’re Young is the great Charles Grodin who plays Watts’ father and is best known for starring nineties film Beethoven. You may also remember him from the fantastic performance he gave alongside Robert De Niro in the 1988 comedy Midnight Run. Now eighty years old and no longer the strongly built character he was, he thoroughly looks his age. However, the second he opened his mouth and that rich voice came out, he stole the show. His strained relationship with Stiller and a hilarious scene where he seems confounded by Oreos are a rare highlight.
I really tried to like this movie, but in the end it just failed to convince me. The feeling of disappointment left by the second half and the tepid ending is hard to ignore. For the great first part and the performance of Charles Grodin I am giving the film two stars. This movie isn’t a plague, but if I were you I would still avoid it.