Wednesday, April 8, 2015
While We're Young 
CNS/USCCB () review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RogerEbert.com (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review
While We're Young  (written and directed by Noah Baumbach) is a dramedy about growing-up / growing middle-aged that many who become entranced by the film may want to see again or perhaps even a couple more times. Why? IMHO because the film sneaks up on you. It initially feels like a rather straight forward nostalgic celebration of "what it is/was like to be young," and then ... it changes into something else, perhaps darker, but (again IMHO) worthy of a second and even third look.
Josh and Cornelia (played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts respectively) are an intellectual 40-something New York couple, Josh a documentary filmmaker, Cornelia a producer of such films, first for her dad (played wonderfully / intentionally somewhat distantly by Charles Grodin), then with her husband, then for her dad again. Cornelia's bouncing between her father and her husband actually says a lot ... about Cornelia and ... even Josh:
Though 40-something neither really seems to have grown-up (and out from the shadow of their parents'/inlaws' generation).
Josh (with Cornelia) made exactly one, if excellent, documentary feature ... some twelve years ago. He's been struggling (and Cornelia's long since given-up on working with him) for the past TEN YEARS to make a second one. But though he has the footage, again TEN YEARS OF IT, interviewing some New York intellectual about "the important political/cultural forces of our time," SINCE HE HAS TEN YEARS OF INTERVIEWS, BOTH HE AND THE INTELLECTUAL HE'S BEEN INTERVIEWING VISIBLY AGE (!!) IN THE FOOTAGE. At best, he's gonna have to REDO a good deal of the interviews if he's ever going to get the project finished ... BUT apparently EVERYTIME HE DOES THAT, SOMETHING "NEW" COMES OUT OF THE DISCUSSION SENDING HIM IN A NEW DIRECTION ... ;-).
In the meantime, Cornelia's (and if one's honest, Josh's) "biological clock" has first sputtered and then run-out. They TRIED a number of years back (apparently in their mid/late 30s) to finally have a kid and well, after many fertility treatments and several miscarriages, Cornelia at least has arrived at the reality that "that ship has sailed."
So ... recapping ... at 40-something, Josh finds himself lecturing at (presumably) CUNY "about documentary film-making", Cornelia works for her dad and they've come to the realization that they are probably not going to have children ... EVEN AS ONE OF THE LAST CHILDLESS COUPLES THAT WERE AMONG THEIR GENERATION / FRIENDS ... JUST HAD A BABY.
So where the heck is the comedy in this? ;-) It's that kind of comedy / dramedy ... Even clowns can both smile and have a tear running down their cheek ...
Enter a hipster 20-something couple, Jamie (played by Adam Driver) and his wife (!) Darby (played by Amanda Seyfried), who just show-up one day at one of Josh's classes. Not recognizing them, Josh asks who they are. Jamie answers that they're "just auditing the class." Josh tells them that his is a continuing education class, one that one can't "just audit" (listen in on / take for free). The two twenty somethings just smile and shrug their shoulders, apparently either not understanding (or nor caring). Cornelia arrives to pick-up Josh after his class ... and ... so Josh / Cornelia meet Jamie / Darby ... and Act II of the story proceeds from there.
Josh and Cornelia find Jamie and Darby to be almost from another planet, A NICE PLANET, A NICE RESPECTFUL PLANET that _they_ almost wished they belonged to BUT A DIFFERENT ONE NONETHELESS. So for a good part of the film that follows, 40-something Josh and Cornelia are simply ENCHANTED by the little retro-Bohemian world that 20-something Jamie and Darby live in: (1) Jamie and Darby GOT MARRIED. Even in Josh / Cornelia's 20-something days "NOBODY" (at least of their intellectual class) got married "that young," (2) they were somewhat dirt poor but didn't care, (3) they seemed to make EVERYTHING themselves, (4) they LIKED "old things" (Jamie's vinyl 33 record collection was bigger than Josh's ever was, and all that Josh owned today was a bunch of CDs). Who were these "Amish city-dwelling Bohemians"?? BUT THEY LIKED THEM.
And so at one point, Josh and Cornelia REALLY CONSIDER _dropping_ THE "FRIENDS WITH CHILDREN" OF THEIR GENERATION to simply hang-out with these younger 20 year olds, WHO WERE SO NICE, SO SIMPLE, SO INNOCENT, SO RESPECTFUL OF THEM ... AS "ELDERS" ... even if THEY THEMSELVES NEVER THOUGHT OF THEMSELVES AS SUCH BEFORE.
Of course, in the third act, THIS CHANGES. Jamie and Darby turn out to be MORE than "sweet children of the corn" ;-) ... (no they are not space aliens or zombies or anything like that ... but they BECOME MORE than JUST "innocent hipster Amishlike Bohemians" ...). And I have to say that I found the transition fascinating, unsettling and perhaps ultimately honest.
And so this is why I do believe that this film deserves several views. What happens in that third act? (Yes, the plot sequence is not that hard to figure out but ...) BUT HONESTLY why does Cornelia's ever distant if ever looming FATHER (!!) suddenly / quite literally "come into the picture" and then seem to understand JAMIE (and his generation) BETTER than JOSH (and his)?
Fascinating ;-) -- the Prodigal Son and Job wrapped into one ;-)
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