FILM REVIEW: While We’re Young

While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach, 2014)

Forty-something viewers are those most likely to identify with Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, but whether you’re Gen X, Y, or older, you’re likely to find something here to appreciate. And there’s music by Wings!

How delightful
How delightful

Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a married, childless couple in their forties. They’re getting old, though not as old as you’d expect for someone named Cornelia. When they meet young twenty-something hipsters Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) they are revitalised. Before long Jamie is riding a bicycle in a fedora, Cornelia is busting a move (and maybe almost a hip) in hip-hop classes, and they’re both consuming hallucinogenic drugs in an effort to truly know themselves. But maybe they’re just a bit too old for this shit?

"You mean... you can read people's minds?"
“You mean… you can read people’s minds?”

While We’re Young offers an interesting perspective on generational differences, particularly in regards to their perspectives on the future. It also plays around with the idea of nostalgia, mildly reminiscent of the idea in Midnight in Paris that people think of time periods outside their own as the ideal. Though Jamie and Darby are part of the iPhone generation, they are much less tech-oriented than Josh and Cornelia, living in an old-school loft apartment full of VHS cassettes and vinyl records. Jamie wants to make a doco about actually seeking out a Facebook friend face to face; Darby makes ice cream for a living. So maybe it isn’t so much nostalgia, as just hipster central. Or are they just wannabe hipsters, as is the trend these days?

They ride bikes, obviously
They ride bikes, obviously

The film plays around with the idea of being genuine and makes a pretty obvious comment on the false honesty of some ‘artists’. The story arc goes somewhere unexpected and is all the better for it. Yes it’s a cute Baumbach movie with awesome Wings and David Bowie music, but it also has something to say as well. And while I’d like to pretend that I’m that much of a cool twenty-something year old that I was familiar with the soundtrack, I have to admit I didn’t even realise those great songs were McCartney and Bowie numbers. I’ll clearly never succeed as a hipster.

Totally staying cool with a Macbook
Totally staying cool with a Macbook

The film obviously boasts a great cast, with all of the four big names playing flawed characters and yet remaining impossible to dislike. Naomi Watts gets another great role after Adoration, The Impossible and Birdman, and Ben Stiller proves he’s more than just Blue Steel (but honestly, I cannot WAIT for Zoolander 2!) Adam Driver is still a bit of a mystery to me (he’s so unattractive and yet ATTRACTIVE) and Amanda Seyfried is perfect as a hippy chick. Charles Grodin was similarly impressive as Cornelia’s documentarian father and I didn’t even realise he’s the Dad from Beethoven! A classic film.


While Baumbach’s style won’t be quite to everyone’s tastes, While We’re Young should appeal to a wide range of age groups. The Gen X-ers will identify with the mid-life crisis, Gen Y-ers will hopefully laugh at themselves, and older audience members can gloat at the folly of the young. And everyone likes Paul McCartney and Bowie right? Even if you don’t know it’s them.

4 stars

3 thoughts on “FILM REVIEW: While We’re Young”

  1. Baumbach’s movies usually aren’t funny, but this one is. However, the laughs come from a serious place and that’s what helped them not feel cheap. Nice review.

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