Review: While We're Young

While We're Young
8 10
This title was previously reviewed as part of our TIFF 2014 coverage.

PLOT: A middle-aged documentarian (Ben Stiller) and his producer wife (Naomi Watts) make friends with a young couple (Adam Driver & Amanda Seyfried) although the generation gap proves to be harder to navigate than they assumed.

REVIEW: Now here's a movie that totally took me by surprise. Obviously I wouldn't ever walk into a Noah Baumbach movie expecting anything other than a good movie. His body of work speaks for itself. But, his serio-comic dramas are an acquired taste, with the recent black & white FRANCES HA being the warmest thing he's done up until now.

If that film was a breakthrough in that it had so much heart put into it, WHILE WE'RE YOUNG is another breakthrough in that it's a full-on mainstream comedy and pretty much a laugh riot from beginning to end. Star Ben Stiller hasn't made anything this engaging in a “tickle-your-funny-bone” way in a while, and it's a reminder of how good he can be as a comic lead when given the right material. He fits Baumbach's story to a tee, which takes a clever look at the generation gap between twenty-something and forty-somethings.

As a middle-aged, formerly cool-guy now uncomfortably bordering on middle age, Stiller is hilarious, especially when paired with Adam Driver as his young guide into the land of New York hipsters. Within a short while of meeting Driver, he's sporting skinny jeans, and wearing a stetson. Naomi Watts is equally funny as his wife, who is herself eager to reclaim her youth, finding her own guide in Driver's wife, played by Seyfried, who takes her to hip hop class, and gets her to start wearing ridiculous things like corsets. There's a great bit where a casual evening at home is contrasted between the two couples, with Stiller and Watts enjoying all their gadgets, like Apple TV, while Driver and Seyfried listen to vinyl and watch an old battered VHS of THE HOWLING, because old is, ya know...cool.

Even more than just being a comedy, WHILE WE'RE YOUNG feels like a statement on how much of a pastiche culture we live in, with the internet having basically turned us into the remix generation. Everything is at our fingertips, so rather than start a pop culture of our own, we appropriate things from other generations. Things that were considered corny then, like bad eighties pop tunes, become cool kitsch when enjoyed ironically. But when you stop and look and consider how much of our pop culture is appropriated, it can't help but make you think, and if WHILE WE'RE YOUNG has a message it's that. Basically, we need to make our own sh*t.

This is driven home by a subplot where Driver, an aspiring documentarian, starts to fudge facts in order to make a compelling film, which puts him at odds with Stiller. But, even more sly are Stiller's exchanges with Charles Grodin (amazing) as Watts' father, a documentarian himself, who, anytime he tries to give advice to Stiller, is ignored. Basically, Baumbach's suggesting that what the twenty-somethings are doing to the forty-somethings is no worse than what the forty-somethings are doing to the sixty-somethings. It's a knowing comment on how each generation ignores what the other has to pass on.

More than that though, WHILE WE'RE YOUNG is just hilarious, with tons of awesome pop culture jokes, including a mescaline trip set to Vangellis' “Love Theme” from BLADE RUNNER and more. It's one of the funniest films of the year, and will hopefully get the wide release it deserves, with it being the rare smart comedy that's doesn't sacrifice the smart in favor of the comedy, or the comedy in favor of the smart.

Extra Tidbit: I somehow missed this at TIFF, but the guy playing Stiller's square pal is none other than Adam Horowitz aka Ad-Rock from The Beastie Boys. The fact that - as a Beastie Boys fan - I didn't notice speaks to how convincing he is.
Source: JoBlo.com



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