Take a Drink: whenever Stiller’s documentary is mentioned
Take a Drink: whenever something spectacularly hipster happens
Take a Drink: “Fuck you.”
Take a Drink: whenever Adam Driver does something weird with his hands
Do a Shot: for juxtaposition montage
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
Noah Baumbach’s always had a very distinctive voice, but while it’s still identifiably his own, he seems to have softened its sharp edge ever since Frances Ha. Also, while he is still fascinated with the foibles and hypocrisies of the yuppie class, he’s expanded that to include the Brooklyn hipster.
Aka, the kind of hipster who would/could give you a hundred bucks for that milkcrate because it’s the right color.
While We’re Young sort of brings together both of those worlds. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a couple who feel they’ve lost most of their friends to parenthood, even at this late juncture. They meet a significantly younger, significantly hipster couple, played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried, who rejuvenate them and alienate them even further from their baby-crazy, age-appropriate peers. However, as fun as they are, do these young’uns have an ulterior motive?
The calling card for Baumbach is sharp, clever writing that points a finger at the ridiculousness of living, particularly for his favorite subjects. While We’re Young is very funny, and really connected with me at points in ways his oeuvre generally hasn’t. At a certain age, and it doesn’t have to be 40, you’ll start to realize that all your friends are getting married, then a few years later, having kids, and on down the line and up the stereotypical adulthood ladder.
For most of us, we’ll be behind the curve at some point (even as people are waiting until they’re older and older to get started on a lot of this these days), and the insecurity and questions about whether you’re the weird one for not wanting to have kids, or buy a house, is inevitable. Escaping into nostalgia also seems to be an accelerated process these days, and While We’re Young isn’t afraid for most of its run to assure us that’s just fine, and even joyful, even if it’s a bit ridiculous on the surface.
I mean, I liked the Rugrats and all, but there’s about a million better things to waste your time on here and now.
The acting is also aces. Driver is a seriously interesting talent, and imbues his ultra-confident hipster alpha with a ton of tics and quirks that round him out more than the script does. Seyfried, while not as eccentric, also does an excellent job with an underwritten character. Buambach focuses his energies on his age peers. Watts is torn about not wanting kids and not being sure if she’s a terrible person for it, and also finds herself struggling with her husband’s more selfish habits.
Stiller is the focal point, though, a man who feels like he missed his chance, constantly chasing the example of his father-in-law, a monumental documentary filmmaker a la Frederick Wiseman, even while stuck on his own second, eight years in the making documentary. The twist is that nobody expects him to be his father-in-law except himself, and even as he tries to blame everybody else for his lack of success, nobody even thinks he’s a failure. As he swats away sincere efforts to help, though, that failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Driver’s also a documentarian, and as his career starts to take off as Stiller’s stays grounded, While We’re Young starts to feel like some sort of screed against remix culture, illegal downloading, and other such “kids these days” concerns. Baumbach shows his age here, and even weirder, seems to contradict this whole arc later.
Part of this is that the script seems to have too many plates spinning in the air at once. Hipsters, nostalgia, entitlement culture, having kids late in life, drifting apart, documentary ethics… there’s too much going on, so when the plot takes some dramatic turns later, like introducing some marital discord in the young couple, those turns feel like they’re coming out of nowhere.
So, when it comes time to wrap everything up and end the film, Baumbach drops the ball, which rolls under a car, then Marlo Stanfield gets a hold of it… just a complete and catastrophic fuckup. It feels like the studio mandated happy ending for Brazil– almost trippy in how out of step it is with the rest of the film, and eviscerating any thematic significance developed up to that point.
While We’re Young has plenty to love, especially if you’re a fan of Girls and its ilk, but seriously shoots itself in the foot with its ending.