Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young” deals with the kind of serious topics generally reserved for documentary films.
Is truth a relative term? Does wisdom come with age? When does fear trump the creative process? Is youth something to be envied?
These lofty questions are handled through the story of Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), a fortysomething couple either living the perfect life or have convinced themselves it’s perfect. He’s a documentary filmmaker who has been working on a project for 10 years. She’s a producer and daughter to a much-honored documentarian.
Their perfect world doesn’t look so ideal when they meet twentysomethings Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried). The older couple admires how the younger pair don’t think so much and live life to the fullest. It’s an approach they begin to covet.
Although separated by age, they do have a major connection in documentary films. The couples begin to spend time together as Josh agrees to help Jamie with his film inspired by a Facebook post. Slowly, the truth about the relationship begins to be exposed.
Baumbach, who wrote and directed the film, doesn’t fall into the gimmicky potholes of such cross-generational tales. Sex is not a driving topic. Instead, the characters carry on intelligent conversations about music, literature, film and creative growth.
Both couples are hungry for something from the other. But both begin to realize that a that living in a way that isn’t who they are isn’t a healthy way to exist.
Baumbach gets solid performances from his cast, including a very controlled effort by Stiller. When Stiller isn’t allowed to go off on one of his meaningless rants, his performance is far more honest and pure.
Stiller’s bulldog approach to what is the truth is a great contrast to the hipster direction Driver’s character takes. The pair’s relationship goes through a metamorphosis from fellow filmmakers to friends to father-son like.
This is one of the most carefree performance by Watts. She’s just as comfortable in an argument with her husband as she is trying to find the beat in a hip-hop class. Watts come across as having the heart of someone who is 20, but with a 40 mentality.
Baumbach avoids trying to force a moralistic point. Instead, he plays out all sides of the arguments and leaves it open to interpretation. The ending is a bit of a cliche, which stands out because it feels so false in a movie touting the virtues of the truth.
“While We’re Young” looks at the universal situation of growing old. It finds fault and favor with youth and maturity. The only concrete observation made is that we all deal with aging in a different way.