Ben Stiller Wrestles With Age And Irrelevancy In 'While We're Young'
Inside every great Noah Baumbach film is a nasty, caustic core; a jagged blade that cuts with the self-reflection his typically solipsistic characters never seem to possess. With his 2005-2010 run of The Squid And The Whale, Margot At The Wedding, and Greenberg, he had under his belt an Aughts-trilogy of unpleasant, middle-classs white New Yorkers. Reception of the films amongst general audiences was sharply divided. Whether or not you enjoyed any of them seemed to come down on how high your tolerance level for the characters was.
Is the master of chronicling the ennui and angst of shithead rich New Yorkers getting soft with age? While We're Young, the first of what will be two Baumbach films this year, is a light-hearted comedy about middle-aged documentary filmmakers Josh and Cornelia Srebnick (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) that's packed with more zingers and punchlines than cutting remarks. Josh has hit a creative lull, but a friendship with a young pair of Brooklynites (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) jumpstarts him out of his malaise.
Most of the humor in While We're Young is generational instead of cutting down the privilege and pettiness of Baumbach's toxic personalities. Isn't it so funny how the kitschy pop ephemera from the childhood of Gen Xers is embraced unironically by Millennials now? The stakes feel small compared to his previous works, and it lacks the emotional heft of the likes of Frances Ha and The Squid And The Whale. Enjoyable and smarter than most comedy fare, but still lightweight.
But if there is one moment of sharp observance within While We're Young, its at the lunch table of trendy Brooklyn eatery. Josh and Cornelia pull their smartphones out to stare down and away from their company, triggering their tablemates to do the same. "Why is it that when one person looks at their phone everyone else does too?" one of them asks. The self-absorption of Millennials isn't generational, but an innate part of what makes us human.
While We're Young opens today in Los Angeles and New York.