A review of Noah Baumbach’s amusing but eventually tiresome couples comedy, starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Just about everybody in Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young” is the sort of person you might not want to be trapped near at a party. But that doesn’t mean they’re not an entertaining population for a movie, and for a while much of this contemporary comedy is great fun — until the party ends and you’re ready for these people to go home.
Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a childless Brooklyn couple in their 40s; he’s a documentary filmmaker who’s been laboring for a decade to make an epic film that’s “both materialist and intellectual at the same time,” while she’s a producer who’s getting frustrated by her friends’ insistence that “real life” is only possible with children. Enter Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a relentlessly hip married couple in their 20s. They ride bicycles everywhere, craft artisan ice cream, linger over board games, reject technology and gaze admiringly at Josh and Cornelia as if the older couple are their newest, shiniest thrift-store find.
Josh recognizes in Jamie a pretentiousness similar to his own (though he wouldn’t phrase it that way), and the two quickly become inseparable, with Jamie helping Josh buy ironic hats, and Josh encouraging Jamie with his own documentary project. (He’s got a plan to “make Facebook real.”) Meanwhile, Cornelia joins Darby at hip-hop dance class (Watts, who rarely does comedy, is hilarious here), and the four of them gather for meaningful conversations, at which Josh is chided for whipping out his smartphone to help remember a fact. “Let’s just not know what it is,” Darby says sweetly, with a serene self-righteousness that’s both aggravating and very funny.
Movie Review ★★½
‘While We’re Young,’ with Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Horovitz, Maria Dizzia, Charles Grodin, Ryan Serhant. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach. 94 minutes. Rated R for language. Several theaters.
Ultimately, though, Baumbach runs out of things to do with these characters, and after a very long and unnecessary scene of vomiting (something both generations do equally well), the movie good-naturedly loses its way. Stiller’s Josh, in particular, starts behaving like somebody created by a writer, rather than like an actual person.
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“While We’re Young” lacks the easy charm of Baumbach’s previous film “Frances Ha” (another take on youth), but even at its lowest points, the dialogue provides some pleasures. “It’s like he once saw a sincere person,” a frustrated Josh says about Jamie, “and he’s been imitating him ever since.”