Published Apr 02, 2015Growing old means always having to look over your shoulder. No matter what career you've chosen, but especially if it's in the arts, there's always someone who's younger and hungrier than you ready to assume your place at the first signs of complacency. That's the central idea behind While We're Young, another observant and achingly funny effort from Noah Baumbach that just may be his most accessible comedy yet.
Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) have settled into the kind of comfortable long-term relationship in which they can't quite fathom where the time has gone. They're at the age where their friends (including the Beastie Boys' Adam Horovitz, acquitting himself nicely) seem to all be having kids while they continue to tread water. He makes documentaries, including a convoluted one that he's been working on for about a decade about America or something and she produces her esteemed father's (Charles Grodin) documentaries.
At a film class that Josh teaches, he meets a young and enthusiastic married couple. Jamie (Adam Driver) makes an impression on Josh by professing to be a diehard fan of his work looking to follow in his footsteps, while Darby (Amanda Seyfried) makes her own ice cream just for kicks. Josh and Cornelia both become infatuated with the younger couple's bohemian and carefree lifestyle and are soon hanging out with them more than their other friends.
Baumbach has always had a gift for writing dialogue that is both hilarious and entirely suited to his characters, and here he excels yet again. It would be tempting to say that he's merely shooting fish in a barrel by lampooning hipsters, but it's also easy to see how Josh and Cornelia are rejuvenated by their brush with youth. As he starts wearing a hat and she begins taking hip-hop dance classes, they are able to turn back the clock and feel as if they've staved off the imposing presence of adulthood.
But the movie's smart enough to realize that this is only a temporary solution. As more details emerge about the documentary Jamie is making about an old high school friend who contacted him on Facebook out of the blue, Josh starts to see that his motivations may be more cutthroat than he initially suspected. It all develops into a bit of a riff on What About Bob?, with everyone so enamoured by Jamie's talent that it slowly eats away at Josh until it's nearly consumed him.
It's rare to find a film like this that's both consistently funny and also has some insights to offer about aging, but Baumbach's helped by finely-tuned performances from the entire cast, especially the enjoyable dynamic of Driver and Stiller.