While We’re Young is comedy film released last year written and directed by Noah Baumbach. I love Baumbach’s work, which includes The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Squid and The Whale and Frances Ha amongst others, and While We’re Young is another great addition to his impressive filmography.
Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play Josh and Cornelia Schrebnick, a couple in their forties living in New York. Josh is a documentary filmmaker who has been working on the same film for eight years, and supports himself by lecturing on film studies. Cornelia is the daughter of a renowned filmmaker and works as his assistant.
Although they seem like a happy couple, they’re both questioning their relationship, having not had children like many of their friends, and they’re looking for meaning in life. They have oodles of freedom and could move to Paris in an instant but like many people they’re stuck in the safety of a rut. As Josh says, ‘perhaps the important thing is not what we do with our freedom but that we have it’. (Sure, Josh, that’s totally the point.)
After teaching a class one day Josh is approached by Jamie and Darby Massey (played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), a young couple in their twenties who profess to admire Josh’s first film and who invite him and Cornelia out for dinner. This is the start of an unlikely friendship between the two couples. Josh and Cornelia are inspired by Jamie and Darby’s freewheeling approach to life, their enthusiasm and creativity, and their hipster reverence for low-fi low-tech living. Cornelia remarks, ‘It’s like their apartment is full of everything we once threw out, but it looks so good the way they have it.’
Josh and Cornelia start to emulate them which leads to several cringe-worthy but funny scenes: Cornelia flailing in hip-hop classes with Darby, Josh buying a fixed-gear bike which he struggles to cycle and revamping his wardrobe to include hats and brogues, and all four of them attending an ayahuasca ceremony. But just when you think the movie is a light-comedy meditation on mid-life crisis, a more sinister plot begins to emerge which suggests that Jamie had an ulterior motive in getting to know Josh all along.
I thoroughly enjoyed While We’re Young. All four lead performances generated great chemistry onscreen, and in particular Driver is excellent as the faux-sincere, ambitious, and self consciously cool Jamie. The script is eccentric and funny in a typically Baumbach-ian way, and the score, composed by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, is well worth a listen.
If you haven’t seen it, stick this one on your viewing list for the weekend!