“What’s that? Hoedown?” “Hip-Hop!”
While We’re Young is not the first time that Noah Baumbach and Ben Stiller have joined forces. They collaborated in making Greenberg; a film I did not enjoy. However, I wholeheartedly enjoyed Baumbach’s follow up picture: Frances Ha. These past experiences left me optimistic for While We’re Young, which looked like being a fun bit of cinema with an emotional edge. Turns out While We’re Young is much, much more.
While We’re Young is a film of the thoughts of its writer/director, Noah Baumbach. Lots of the issues tackled trickle over from Frances Ha, but this is by no means a rehashing. While We’re Young deals with the nature of being or feeling ‘entitled’ in a world that doesn’t owe you anything. Baumbach hints that while people may tell you otherwise, not everything is yours for the taking.
The film also deals with the nature of authenticity, having your own place and role: the line ‘Be yourself: everyone else is taken’ features. Baumbach seems to have strong feelings on how one person’s authentic can be another person’s phoney. The things that one may feel are authentically part of their person, are also part of hundreds of other people’s authenticity, in completely different ways. His idea, for me, is that we should treat a fine line between fighting tooth-and-nail for that which forms our unique self and becoming too selfish to allow others to have their own authentic voice. We’re all part of the same experiences; nobody’s are better than anyone else’s, and all are equally admirable.
Another area that trickles over from Baumbach’s previous work is the acting talent. Ben Stiller returns from Greenberg and Adam Diver follows on from Frances Ha, with Watts and Seyfried completing the central, mirroring pairs. Apart from telling the story of entitlement and authenticity, the mirroring couples highlight people’s differing levels of satisfaction. A tale of mutual dissatisfaction is told, while Baumbach argues that the grass isn’t always greener. Stiller and Driver’s love hate relationship is where these arguments boil over, as Stiller’s aged persona clashes with ‘The Adam Driver Character’, in what is an enthralling conflict.
Baumbach’s style is so infectious that these messages only really strike you as the credits roll. His personal style of filming gives the picture the feel of a documentary; as if the story he is showing is a real-life fable. Yet when Baumbach removes the scene’s natural sounds, replacing them with clinking instrumentals, we are at once overwhelmed and reminded that this is a story, one in which we are being deliberately led.
This film is not only a deep. thoughtful and subtly real depiction of life’s misgivings, but it is also a joy to watch. While We’re Young is full of humour and joviality but it laced with the poisonous sting of real life. Baumbach is making a habit of masking fiction as reality, and it is a habit I hope continues.