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While We're Young
Genre Comedy
 
Review:

While We're Young is a film by Noah Baumbach, the writer-director who brought us The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, Frances Ha and Greenberg, which also starred Ben Stiller. Baumbach's got an unconventional approach, tending towards comedy dramas and the uncomfortable "dramedy" genre, delivering honest, humorous, heartfelt and meaningful films about complex people and the human condition.

His latest film, While We're Young, encounters concerns faced by modern society about the over-reliance on technology in how we relate to one another. Baumbach is also fascinated with how this has counter-cultural implications on an alienated youth and the hipster movement, as the disenfranchised look to the past for a more tactile, retro connection beyond the inadequacies of digital relationships.

To get into this head space of old and new, analog and digital, real and unreal... he's juxtaposed two couples: a childless 40-something married couple and a free-spirited 20-something couple. Josh and Cornelia, played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, are reinvigorated by the care-free, can-do attitude of Jamie and Darby, played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. As the two couples draw closer and more in tune, inconsistencies arise and the promise of an apprentice and master friendship crumble as the ego-bruising realities of this couple romance bloom.

Ben Stiller is perfectly cast as a documentary film-maker, whose unfinished work begins to pain his marriage to Cornelia. He's a me-versus-the-world guy, whose stringent work ethic and niche subject matter have gone unrewarded. We empathise and admire him for sticking it out and find his inflexibility quite amusing. Naomi Watts plays Cornelia, his supportive, yet increasingly despondent wife, who tries to adjust to their new lust for life.

Jamie and Darby become the perfect distraction, reminding them of when they were more free and inspiring the couple to live outside-the-box. Adam Driver slips into the role of a lucky, naive and unconventional film-maker with a knack for what works. While Amanda Seyfried isn't quite as easy-going, she's just as naive and cute in all their homespun glory.

While We're Young grapples with existential issues and delivers on entertainment value, yet it does have an I Heart Huckabees echo with a semi-pretentious "elixir of truth/youth" edge. The retro cool paradigm has a similar dynamic to Ellen Page and Jason Bateman's characters in Juno. One scene involving buckets and chanting went a bit too far, otherwise it's a mostly consistent, thought-provoking and enjoyable watch.

All in all, While We're Young serves as a timely commentary on society and contemporary values. The drama is built on a thoughtful script, an in-form Stiller and solid supporting performances. The honest and whimsical tone sells the comedy as the characters find themselves in a fun house of mirrors and we're entertained by the hook-line-and-sinker sincerity of Josh and Cornelia.

The bottom line: Poignant

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