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While We're Young

While We're Young

Released 3 April 2015
Director Noah Baumbach

Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, Adam Horowitz, Maria Dizzia, Dree Hemingway, Brady Corbet
Writer(s) Noah Baumbach

Noah Baumbach, Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, Lila Yacoub
Origin United States
Running Time 97 minutes
Genre Comedy, drama
Rating 15A

Hip to be square.

Frances Ha, directed by Noah Baumbach,  is still one of my favourite films of the last few years. It is a warm, funny and insightful look at the growing pains of a twenty-something woman as she begins to feel out of step with the friends she had once been so close to. Baumbach’s new film While We’re Young treads a similar path but feels like the work of a different person entirely. Whereas Frances Ha affectionately poked fun at Greta Gerwig’s state of arrested development, While We’re Young presents us with a group of characters who have little depth or progression - a quartet of self-involved caricatures that seem to have been pulled from a Google search of the word ‘hipster’.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play married couple Josh and Cornelia. Josh was once a promising documentary maker but his career has stalled and he now makes ends meet by teaching. At one of his classes, Josh is approached by a couple in their mid-twenties, who claim to be fans of his work. Jamie (Adam Driver) is an aspiring documentary maker and his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried) makes her own range of ice-creams. Josh and Cornelia are fascinated by the exciting lives of this young couple and they becomes firm friends, reliving their youth much to the disapproval of their more age-appropriate friends (a much more likable couple played by Adam Horovitz and Maria Dizzia).

While We’re Young is aiming to capture the spark and irreverence of Woody Allen or Nora Ephron (the conversation about the benefits of not having children is lifted straight from When Harry Met Sally) but has neither the wit nor the warmth required to make the foibles and mis-steps of its characters feel anything other than artificial. This is a shame as the main kernel of the story has universal relevance as Josh and Cornelia struggle with the fact that their best friends have become parents. Unusually for Baumbach, While We’re Young feels like a very male dominated film. Ben Stiller’s bruised, aging ego takes centre stage while Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfried are left on the sidelines with rather underwritten roles.

For me, all this was quite disappointing. The film certainly had potential but its skewering of bourgeois hipness never hits the comedic target. Instead, While We’re Young itself feels like a bit of a mid-life crisis for Baumbach.

- Linda O’Brien