Adam Driver and Ben Stiller star in writer/director Noah Baumbach’s ‘While We’re Young.’
The quote “youth is wasted on the young” is the defining premise of the latest film from Noah Baumbach.
This idea that the currently young generation doesn’t understand where they came from or that they don’t respect it is key in While We’re Young — which refreshingly feels more like a comment on the current state of young adulthood compared to middle age rather than being the director taking a stand or making a point on how he felt like it worked.
While We’re Young follows Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), who are struggling with coming to terms with the current state of their life. Their friends are mostly concerned with their newborn baby and the toils of dealing with that next step in their life, but Josh and Cornelia aren’t there. “We could go to Paris right now if we wanted to,” quips Josh after they spend an afternoon with Marina (Maria Dizzia) and Fletcher (Adam Horovitz) and their new baby.
Things change when they come across Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) at a lecture that Josh is teaching. The younger couple ask Josh and Cornelia out and instantly they hit it off due to their “generous” attitudes, which makes Josh obsessed with this millennial mentality that he feels to be so foreign.
Baumbach is one of the better observers of the nuances of 20-30 year olds in present day due to his previous work with Greenberg and Frances Ha with While We’re Young being no different. But this time around, he adds the dimension of being inside the mind of both the middle age group and the millennial one more closely resembling the first film, but without the complications that came from Stiller’s character in that movie.
But what this film does so well is comment of the idea of handouts that most prominently represent the perception of the millennial generation. While Driver’s Jamie and Seyfried’s Darby are heightened versions of actual people (or maybe not, I haven’t been to New York lately), they still represent this idea this generation and the perception that most of the people in this class can be labeled as “hipsters.”
Baumbach is able to comment though on the change in lifestyle that has formed with the millennial/hipsters and the middle age/Baby Boomers that Watts and Stiller represent through a few key scenes. One in particular is a montage that finds Jamie and Darby listening to records while Josh and Cornelia listen to their various electronic devices where he almost says that there really isn’t too much disconnect between the two generations.
That point above is probably the most prevalent one in the entire film where Baumbach is able to critique both ways of living, but never picks a side. Instead, he seems to say that both sides have their issues and that they really aren’t as different as people on both sides like to think. By the end of the film, he makes the point that both sides are ambitious and that millennials are as enterprising as the generations before them even if they seem like they are more generous and friendly as Josh points out multiple times throughout the film.
The film has its problems, as it drags throughout the second act as Josh struggles between the two sides of the fence that the film poses, but overall, it is another strong output by Baumbach. He continues to show that he is a director that understand the generation and almost works as a millennial version of Woody Allen with his past few films (especially the last two with Frances Ha and this one).
It was refreshing to see someone step up and make a valid point about the millennial generation that is constantly stepped on by others. He offers a comment on both sides and reminds you that no one is that different from the other, iPhone in front of them or not, and that everyone wants to better themselves and get to the top any way they can.