mon 17/02/2020

DVD: While We're Young | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: While We're Young

DVD: While We're Young

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts confront mid-life anxieties in Noah Baumbach's wry comedy

Josh (Ben Stiller) tries to recapture his youthIcon

As Noah Baumbach moves into his forties, his youthful archness is becoming increasingly tempered with a wry melancholy. It adds depth and piquancy to this story of a forty-something couple trying to come to terms with the fading of youth’s infinite possibilities (“What’s the opposite of 'the world is your oyster'?”) by embracing, occasionally literally, a pair of Millennials who introduce them to cool enthusiasms such as cycling, walking in disused subway tunnels, and ayahuasca ceremonies (self-realization through shamanic ritual and copious magic mushroom-induced vomiting).

Josh (Ben Stiller, giving another masterful wallow in self-pity) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts, making the most of an underwritten role) are stuck in a rut: their sex life is non-existent, they go to bed at 11, and all their friends have disappeared into smug parentdom. 

Josh has been working for 10 years on the same documentary about a left-wing academic (played by Peter Yarrow of liberal folk icons Peter, Paul and Mary), who has been forgotten, while Cornelia supports the egos of the prickly, hard-to-help Josh and her father (an excellent Charles Grodin, all dry hauteur), an acclaimed cinema-verité documentarian in the Wiseman/Maysles vein, whom Josh resents while craving his approval (a dynamic familiar to anyone who’s seen The Affair), while convincing herself she’s fine with not having children after failed IVF treatments and miscarriages.

Then aspiring documentary-maker Jamie (Adam Driver, playing a saner version of his Girls character) and his artisanal ice cream-making girlfriend Darby (Amanda Seyfried, even more underwritten) show up at Josh’s filmmaking class. Suddenly Josh and Cornelia are dancing and staying up late, while Josh’s always fragile ego is buoyed by going from protégé to mentor. But is Jamie the enthusiastic, generous admirer he seems or a manipulative, fiercely ambitious, hipster Eve Harrington?

Along the way, Baumbach considers – sometimes at excessive length – the nature of authenticity, the difference between documentary and “structured reality”, the streaming generation’s view of copyright (“Nobody owns anything. I hear a song I like, it’s mine to use,” says Jamie), and the way everything old becomes new again (Jamie and Darby listen to actual vinyl LPs, watch VHS tapes, play board games, and type on an old IBM Selectric; Josh and Cornelia, by contrast, are glued to their touch screens).

Like his artistic progenitor Woody Allen, Baumbach’s explorations of the bohemian bourgeoisie (in hip Brooklyn, as opposed to Allen’s moneyed Manhattan) are long on psychological acuity and witty dialogue, shorter on action and CGI, but fans of intelligent character exploration and social comedy will find While We’re Young rejuvenating.

Extras include interviews with Baumbach and an extended hip-hop dance class sequence.

Explorations of the bohemian bourgeoisie (in hip Brooklyn, as opposed to Allen’s moneyed Manhattan) are long on psychological acuity and witty dialogue


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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