The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.
While We're Young

Reviewed by Rebecca Rae.

Director Noah Baumbach
Length 97 mins
Certificate 15
Rating *******---
Filmmaking: 4  Personal enjoyment: 3

Photo from the article I have a theory that you can learn everything you need to know about a film in its opening shot. It's a pretty loose theory but it's a fun game to play nonetheless - and seems more credible after watching this great little piece about 'first and final frames in films' While We're Young is a great example of this theory. The film opens with a simple shot of a newborn baby lying down, his big innocent eyes staring up at you. What can we learn from this?

This film is going to be about children. It's going to be about youth and infantile natures. It's going to be about façade and selfishness - for babies biologically look as cute as they do to make sure you look after them (Konrad Lorenz's 'baby schema'). That's quite a deep summary for a film pitched as a comedy, though if you know Baumbach's work, this is quite typical. If you're expecting a whole lot of laughs then this isn't the film to watch. That's not to say there's no fun to be had watching it - the opening shot that leads into the opening scene is a great comment on adult relationships and attitudes towards children; cute but terrifying; nonplussed and out of depth.

This sums up Cornelia and Josh's (Naomi Watts & Ben Stiller) forty-something struggle to figure out where they are going and what they want from life. Unable to conceive, they are frustrated with where that places them within their circle of family focused friends. Upon meeting a twenty-something married couple, Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver & Amanda Seyfried), Cornelia and Josh begin to revel in the spontaneity that youth can bring and its differing focus of creating art, rather than family.

The film provides a great commentary on how an older generation interacts with its younger counterpart. There is a cyclical nature presented in the film through generational hierarchy and its placement within the bracket of documentary filmmaking provides further insight into how adults interact with other adults (who are at the same time also children) at different periods in their personal and professional lives.

However, this means that the film often feels unbalanced and moves back and forth between being about filmmaking and about family. It feels slightly indulgent in this way and you're left feeling as frustrated as Cornelia and Josh as to which element you're supposed to be focusing on.

The four leads give good performances; Naomi Watts taking a hip-hop class is a great visual representation of teaching an 'old dog new tricks'. Adam Driver plays a creative and passionate twenty-something with the same skill (his physicality is one of his best tools) as he does in Lena Dunham's Girls; though in this instance Jamie has a devious and manipulative edge that balances out intellectual craving with calculated ambition. Amanda Seyfried is woefully underused, as she is possibly the most interesting character, though her speech about being the 'bit-part' in her and Jamie's marriage points towards the fact that essentially she's just another way of showing how much of an asshole Jamie is. Ben Stiller, however, whilst wearing his hipster hat with embarrassing aplomb, just doesn't seem right in the part. Josh's creative and professional insecurities don't come across as strongly as they could - and this is what makes the film feel unbalanced, as it is his journey we are most aligned with. The sign of a film that hasn't quite met its mark, we're left feeling a little like the rest of the table at an awards show held for Cornelia's father after a showdown between Josh and Jamie - does it really matter?

This review was published on April 07, 2015.

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