While We’re Young deals with the time when aging starts to get personal—personally meaningful. Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Watts) are there and get side-tracked by a younger couple, Jamie (Driver) and Darby (Seyfried) whose lives seem so exciting, unlike another couple whom they’ve been friends with for years, who just had a baby. Josh and Cornelia discuss how free they feel and lucky to start hanging out with the younger set interested in so many things—hip hop, mystical evenings with a shaman, bicycling, woodwork, music on vinyl, and so on. Best of all, it seems, Jamie aspires to be a documentarian just like Josh and his famous father-in-law Leslie Breitbart (Grodin).
Josh has always preferred to work alone, but after exposure to Jamie’s apparent generosity, he attempts to be more collaborative, and they embark on a joint project, and Josh is forced to introduce Jamie to Breitbart. Josh has always rejected his father-in-law’s attempts to advise him out of sheer determination to make his career his own. Jamie has no such qualms; he freely borrows from others, charmingly pulling them into his circle, and making his way toward the top.
Ever so gradually, it dawns on Josh what is happening, and he makes a scene at an inappropriate time, thinking that when he “exposes” Jamie everyone will feel just as he does. It’s a crushing moment when it becomes obvious that no one sees anything wrong with what Jamie has done/is doing, and that even Cornelia sees him as overly suspicious. She loves her husband, and this puts her in a bind, which she handles beautifully.
In this sensitive part of the drama, Noah Baumbach, the writer/director, seems to be working through issues in his own mind about the nature of truth and films, particularly documentaries. How does the filmmaker walk that fine line between being strictly truthful and ensuring that a film will be interesting, even entertaining? Does it matter if the truth is hedged a bit or a lot if the point of the film is really about something else?
He does make sure that the Josh character develops more insight into himself and others as a result of this painful experience, and by the end seems to be setting himself on a much more relaxed journey through life.
Stiller and Driver have the meatier roles and play them very well. I was sorry that the characters for the two main actresses, Watts and Seyfried, were written primarily as support for their husbands. They are both highly talented and skilled, and it seems a waste to have them in such lackluster roles, although as usual their fine acting shows through. Charles Grodin and Peter Yarrow in cameo roles demonstrate that age has its privileges, including professional seasoning.
James Murphy’s score and soundtrack are truly enjoyable accompaniments to the film, particularly in its perfect pairing of the drama with sound in so many scenes.
Overall, this is a fine update in Noah Baumbach’s career; I think his finest yet.
The best of Baumbach.
Grade: B By Donna R. Copeland