Movie Review: ‘WHILE WE’RE YOUNG’ Is A Poignant Comedy Made For Adults


Cole Clay//Film Critic

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG | 97 min | Rated R
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin and Adam Horovitz

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG is framed as an indictment of the mid-life crisis, and while it can be a daunting period, writer/director Noah Baumbach has a playful bout with the egotistical minds of people of a certain age. And even though the New York City based comedy doesn’t fully come together at the end, Baumbach is keenly aware of the contemporary concerns of adults facing a social crisis.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play Josh and Cornelia, a relatively happy NYC couple unbridled with the concerns of raising a child (after several failed attempts), but are consequently stifled by their own egos that lead to a marginalized existence that excludes them from the normal family activities of couples their own age. Leading the charge is Josh, a documentarian who is aware he has failed to meet his own potential, but is given a jolt of piss and vinegar when he meets a 24-year-old free-wheeling filmmaker Jamie (Adam Driver) and his equally bohemian wife Darby (played by the ever-talented Amanda Seyfried).

Josh and Cornelia are trying to get their friends to understand their plights like a family member would, but Baumbach frankly says this is not the case. They have given up on the idea of family and use Jamie and Darby as surrogates to fill the void of not having a child, or even a Labradoodle puppy. Driver and Seyfried’s relationship demonstrates that it’s impossible to keep up with the curve of youth culture, even if Stiller’s ridiculous looking yet earnest fedora and double espresso over ice beg to differ.

Stiller is becoming Baumbach’s on-screen personality quite nicely. Stiller opted for a less prickly performance with this character than in the manic comedy GREENBERG, which was an arguably more focused project. Baumbach is a master of capturing an urban landscape and all it’s wonderful misgivings. WHILE WE’RE YOUNG doesn’t live up to the absurd playfulness of FRANCES HA, but doesn’t ever lose sight of the core relationship of the film between Stiller and Watts.

Baumbach does get a bit heavy-headed in sections of the film discussing how ethics in media have changed from the baby boomers to generation X and jaggedly peaking with the millennials. It’s a nice comment, but sticks out worse than Stiller in one of those NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM movies. It’s disparaging wardrobe choices like the aforementioned fedora and roller blades that lead to the conclusion that Baumbach has no issues poking fun at the pretension in his characters, who have acted as a way to personify the mood of Brooklyn. While the blend of social commentary and buffoonery don’t always mesh, WHILE WE’RE YOUNG has an enjoyable premise from an immensely talented filmmaker.

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG opens tomorrow.

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.