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While We're Young
By Elyse Sommer
If you missed it when it was first released five years ago, as I did, now is a fine time to catch up with it. The New Yorkers you'll spend a touch more than an hour and a half with aren't locked up but able to interact, without masks or gloves. And doing so in a variety of settings.
For starters, Baumbach has assembled a terrific cast. The key players are three couples — two are like their creator in their forties (Generation X), the third couple is still straddles the twenties (Generation Y). While the relationships are interlinked , this is basically Josh Schrebnick's story and a star vehicle for Ben Stiller who is no stranger to Baumbach films. And it's a perfect fit.
Stiller's Josh is nice guy, happily married to Cornelia (Naomi Watts,), and committed to his career as a documentary film maker. Unlike his successful fledgling documentary, the current work which uses interviews with a dour, old left wing intellectual named Ira Mandelstam (Peter Yarrow — yes indeed, the one from Peter, Paul and Mary) seems to be stuck in a time warp. The interviews in which Mandelsam pontificates about power and intellectualism have gone on and on, and Josh hasn't yet figured out how to end it.
Josh's attempt to explain the purpose of his ten-year project validates the intent to have the film function primarily as a comedy with typically Baumbachian wit. As for Josh's personal life. This is where we get into the heart of his plot: Per the title, the focus is on Josh and Cornelia's grab at what they see as their rapidly fading youth. What triggers it is a chance meeting that leads to their becoming close friends with a still full of youthful vim and vigor couple, Jamey Massey (Adam Driver) and Darby Massey (Amanda Seyfried). Adam Driver, who also co-starred in Baumbach's more recent Marriage Story (see my review here). This role gives Driver another chance to display his incredible physical and performance versatilityl.
Couple friendships can have all the elements of a love affair — the excitement and fun of meeting and getting to know each other, as well as the disappointments, possible breakups and reunions. In this case that brings in Josh and Cornelia's long time friends Marina (Maria Dizzia) and Fletcher ( Adam Horovitz).
As we see in the opening scene there's a new love in their lives to alter the dynamics of the friendship. After years of being childless Marina and Fletcher have become parents so smitten with the baby and their new roles that no other conversation is possible. While Josh and Cornelia try to support and share their joy, you need only look at Stiller's face to see that he's not really into this scene . The fact that his and Cornelia's opting not to have children was the result of numerous painful and unsuccessful tries at having a baby is likely factor into their contentment and the cooling of the Marina-Flipper relationship and intense involvement with Jamie and Darby.
As Josh and Cornelia aren't quite as content as they seem neither are Driver and Seyfried's Jamie and Darby quite the guileless hipsters they seem to be. These are not just people who relish old vinyl records and imbue Josh with a sense of learning to be young again and a spirit of generosity. Jamie doesn't just admire Josh's work but that of Cornelia's father Leslie Breitbart (a Charles Grodin), an Iconic film maker who, unlike Josh, is still successful — and rich, which adds another generational conflict to the film's mix of comic and serious topics.
I won't spoil your experiencing the details of the fast paced dishing up of all these joyful and newly revealed undercurrents in each couple's life. The scenes that will have you joining Josh and Cornelia as they're initiated into Jamie and Darby's life are amusingly ridiculous and show Baumbach at his satiric best. If the finale is a bit too much of a conveniently devised happy ending, there's enough leading up to it to make you applaud anyway — well, maybe not applaud as that's something you do only in live theater not when the story telling is on screen.
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. While We're Young
Written and Directed by Noah Baumbach
Cast:: Ben Stiller as Josh Schrebnick; Naomi Watts as Cornelia Schrebnick (née Breitbart); Adam Driver as Jamie Massey; Amanda Seyfried as Darby Massey; Charles Grodin as Leslie Breitbart; Adam Horovitz as Fletcher; Maria Dizzia as Marina; Dree Hemingway as Tipper; Brady Corbet as Kent Arlington; Matthew Maher as Tim; Ryan Serhant as Hedge Fund Dave; Peter Yarrow as Ira Mandelstam; Matthew Shear as Benny; James Saito as Dr. Nagato
Music by James Murphy
Cinematography Sam Levy
Edited by Jennifer Lame
. Running Time 1h 37m
Release date September 6, 2014 (TIFF) March 27, 2015 (United States) Currently free for Netflix subscribers for rent at Amaxon Prime
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