Friday, 21 August 2015

While We’re Young

Ah, to be young and free. Something a lot of us take for granted. I’ve heard many people talking about wanting to skip youth, for various reasons. Even The Beach Boys sang ‘wouldn’t it be nice if we were older, and we wouldn’t have to wait so long’. But being young is a great thing and something that many people miss in their later years. That is the premise of Noah Baumbach’s latest little comedy drama While We’re Young, out now on DVD & Blu-Ray. Is it another jewel in his independent cinema crown, or one to ignore?

Ben Stiller and director Noah Baumbach reunite here after 2010’s Greenberg and deliver another solid independent comedy drama. The film centres on a documentary filmmaker named Josh (Ben Stiller) and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts), whose lives are completely changed when they begin spending time with young, hipster couple Jamie & Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). But as Josh and Cornelia start reliving their youth with their new friends, they push their old friends away and realise being young again maybe isn’t all it’s cracked up to be - if you grow older the right way. Whilst critics loved While We’re Young, I’ve noticed online that a lot of the audience seemed to hate it. At the time of writing this article, the Amazon Customer Reviews average stands at 2.5 stars. From skimming through the comments, it seems the general consensus is that the film ‘unoriginal’, ‘not funny’, ‘uneventful’, ‘boring’ and ‘just a load of rubbish’. Granted, While We’re Young is a slow and understated piece. It’s an independent comedy from Noah Baumbach – if you’re up to date with your film directors, you know where you stand with Baumbach and his films. But if you don’t, and you just see Ben Stiller’s mug on the cover and critic comments that state the film is ‘supercharged entertainment with a laugh-line-per-minute’, I can see how you could easily be misled. 

I’ll sound like one of the film’s hipster characters saying this, but While We’re Young is not a mainstream film. Ben Stiller fans – don’t expect any silly Zoolander or Dodgeball style laughs. The ‘jokes’ here aren’t in your face; they’re witty observations of today’s society. The film is staggeringly well-observed study of our culture, more than anything else. Phones, Facebook, hipsters…A lot of relatable concepts are covered here in a humorous but quiet way. As hipster couple Jamie & Darby, Driver and Seyfried are probably the high point of the film in terms of character, with instantly recognisable subtle hipster traits that everyone who’s ever known a hipster will be able to laugh at. Despite being so unlikeable (unless you like hipsters, for whatever reason), these characters are stunningly well acted. Stiller and Watts deliver fine performances too though, albeit rather gentle and understated. This is where I think Stiller shines. He’s always been better in these roles.

But even with While We’re Young’s strong points in consideration, the film is nothing special or original. It all feels a little empty and unnecessary and, once it’s over, it is instantly forgotten. But if the hipster epidemic ends and, I know this is wishful thinking, we all become a little less dependent on our phones – then While We’re Young will serve as a fascinating time capsule of this period in history. Perhaps like 1960s Mods n’ Rockers and 1980s punks, 2010s hipsters will soon be a thing of the past. Let’s hope.

In conclusion, While We’re Young is another solid and understated piece for Noah Baumbach’s filmography. Packed with fine performances and well-observed characters, there’s enough here to recommend. But it’s nothing too special, and as such it is instantly forgettable. But if you find yourself with nothing better to do, and you like understated indie comedy, then I’m sure you’ll have a pleasant 90 minutes with this one.

While We’re Young earns a down-the-middle 3/5.


Sam Love

While We’re Young at CeX

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