[Editors Note: This is a new theatrical review. We also have a NYFF review from Will from last year.]
Noah Baumbach joins Wes Anderson in the pantheon of the best modern auteurs in Hollywood after his most recent hit film, While We’re Young. Baumbach once again teams up with Ben Stiller after the successful indie “dramedy,” Greenburg. This time around, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, and Amanda Seyfried, accompany Stiller, to help deliver Baumbach’s funniest movie to date.
While We’re Young takes place in current day New York City where Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), comfortably enjoy their midlife crisis. Josh, a documentarian that has not finished a film in ten years. uses his work as an excuse to live in content, while Cornelia kind of just goes along with it. They have both struggled to have kids. Josh works part time as a teacher where we are introduced to Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) who are auditors in his class. Jamie, an admirer of Josh’s work, invites him and Cornelia to dinner where a bond between the young and old develop.
Baumbach gets the cast perfectly with Stiller, Driver, Watts and Seyfried. The chemistry between Josh and Jamie works naturally and the dialogue between the two is well written by Baumbach. I have always been a fan of Ben Stiller, but he is always at his absolute best when working with Noah Baumbach. The range and the wit feels effortless; this is the Ben Stiller people should know about.
Driver works as a perfect foil, channeling his character from Girls with a little more douchey-ness and a broader array of humor. Driver’s body of work has been extensive in the past few years and although he tends to have the same character arc he performs it with ease. One day there will be a “Manic Pixie Dream Guy” wiki and he will be the prime example.
The tandem between Watts and Seyfried is subtler than their male counterparts, but Baumbach still gets his characters message across with ease. It is difficult to be in love with someone who loves their work more than them. The characters of Josh and Jamie are generally narcissistic and the characters of Cornelia and Darby are reminders that it may be wonderful to love them, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy.
The supporting roles of the movie are fleshed out by Charles Grodin, Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys), all of which work well with the tone of the movie. They serve as reminders of the outside world of the four main characters. Reminders of age, pragmatism, fighting your own personal ego, and eventually having to settle down.
After Baumbach’s accomplishment with Frances Ha, I found it difficult for him to top off such a movie like that but he has, or at least equaled it with While We’re Young. Overall the film is a very modern and honest approach to people getting older and how they find ways to cope with it. The screenplay is heartfelt and sincere with a mix of great laugh inducing moments. This is hands down, Baumbach’s funniest movie to date, one that I enjoyed a great deal.