Free Press Journal

Movie Review: While We’re Young – Intellectual Comedy


Cast: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver,Charles Grodin,Adam Horovitz

Director: Noah Baumbach
There’s Vivaldi and David Bowie on the  soundtrack of this movie which should have had Cliff Richard’s “The Young Ones” even as it begins with a quote from Henrik Ibsen’s “The Master Builder” about fearing the young.
On the wrong side of 40, Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) Josh in particular, gawk at the retro cool of 20-plus couple Jamie (Adam Driver,lizardly) and Darby (Amanda Seyfriend). JD  listen to LPs, watch VHS movies, use typewriters and commute via bicycles, while JC are at ease with the digital age ( Apple TV,iTunes etc. Your reviewer gawked at the clean and wide,wide streets )

Perhaps, it’s the seven year itch, but Josh and Cornelia are afflicted by envy. They shouldn’t be,but try telling that to homo sapiens beset with discontentment or irrational longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or even luck. Soon, they begin to feel left out when their peer group expands their famillies.The fact that they chose to be childless escapes their minds. Till Cornelia rakes it up. And now the biological clock is ticking and its too late. Or it it? After all, there are test tube babies but I reckon Cornelia prefers a 9 to 5 career to 24 hour nappies (at least in the first few years).And then, one can always adopt, a far far better thing, I dare say to test tubes and such like. But then I’m not JC which thinks JD is exciting,cool and young.
JD, Jamie in particular who has just discovered Eisenstein’s montage theory and aspires to be a film-maker. JC are film-making royalty;Josh is a doc filmmaker who is hung up on Ricoeur’s “hermeneutics of suspicion” and Godard. Cornelia has worked with her eminent film-maker dad Leslie (Charles Grodin) 
Sneaking into a  continuing education class on documentary filmmaking taught by Josh, JD  invite JC  to enrol in hip hop dance classes, and attend New Age “spiritual” (meaning shamanism,voodoo and Heaven knows what else) camps. JC fall hook, line and sinker for JD’s lifestyle, but your viewer could smell a rat. Jamie  has the nerve  to invite Josh to co-direct a new documentary on an American war veteran. Josh is ethical and swears in things like copyright and privacy, whereas Jamie  thinks he ( and his ilk) can use everything without permission, and for free. He also believes ( and acts on the belief) that he can reconstruct , meaning fake events. 
Josh also works extra-fast, like there’s no tommorrow (“What’s the use of editing?”) while Josh is unable to complete a documentary for seven years (the subject is class, war, capitalism . . . “it’s really just about America”) . This perhaps is what makes Josh willing and able to take Jamie under his wings. 
Mercifully, the scales falls from Josh’s eyes and he sees Jamie for the wheeler dealer that he is.  The film closes with Josh and Cornelia  around beautiful babies ( their friends) 
Director Baumbach is 45 himself and understands well the fear of shaking off these mortal coils in due course. And the angst and dread of time and growing old till that happens. And yet there is a beauty in maturing,and reassuring the better half,”Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be…”
Baumbach is a thoughtful filmmaker, his  cast is stellar and  Ben Stiller( who starred in Baumbach’s Greenberg) is endearing as usual. ( Ooh, I just wanna hug him)