While We’re Young (2014) Directed by Noah Baumbach. With Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried.
From acclaimed writer-director Noah Baumbach comes While We’re Young, a coming-of-un-age film about a couple in their 40’s who are befriended by a couple in their 20’s. Set against the backdrop of New York, but with tourist attractions well out of sight, the elder couple are played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, a not-exactly-old pair of New Yorker’s who begin to feel decidedly ancient in the company of Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried – a pair of (dare I say it) hipsters who embrace culture and openness in a way that the 40-something’s have semi-forgotten.
Thankfully, the tone keeps us from rolling our eyes too much and although initially it seems the case, Baumbach’s intentions aren’t to lecture us for not being hipsters. No, he’s more interested in exploring the humour between the age and culture gaps, while concreting the simple truth that we’re all basically the same, just different interpretations of it.
Baumbach isn’t afraid to embrace his influences either, with the style of Woody Allen evident throughout. Like so many Ben Stiller headliners, While We’re Young was marketed as an out-and-out comedy. Perhaps this might have led to some amount of confusion over expectations – certainly the majority of the humour is delivered with the intention of being wryly amusing over downright laughing-in-the aisles hilarious.
Performance-wise, it’s fine. Driver and Stiller are given the lions share of the screen-time, while Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfried are more back-seat passengers than they ought to be. Stiller is basically the same old Average Joe we’ve seen what seems like a thousand times over, while Driver is a more curiously magnetic presence, playing a quasi version of Keanu Reeves from Bill & Ted, but without the spontaneous air guitar and a better vocabulary.
Ultimately, the film skirts around the idea of the perception of what is ‘cool‘ and the things we should be aspiring to. Occasionally it feels like it’s about derail, but it just about keeps its balance despite some hairy moments. Sadly, it fails to muster the same grounded humanity of Baumbach’s earlier effort, Frances Ha, and although it has patchy moments of good humour, there isn’t enough going on to make a strong recommendation. 3/5