While We're Young

Noah Baumbach dropped by TIFF with his latest examination of age, maturity, and legacy…and with the finish line in sight, it is handily one of my favorite films of the festival.

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG is the story of two couples. The first couple is Josh and Cornelia (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts). They are in their early forties and struggling to find their social footing. They find themselves caught by things they never did and things they don’t want to do. While several friends their own age are having babies and starting families, Josh and Cornelia don’t want that…and as a result are on the outs. Into their orbit drifts the second couple, Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). These two are something between bohemians and hipsters (“bohemipsters”?). Jamie admires Josh’s work as a filmmaker, and reaches out to him and his wife to become friends.

The result is a contradiction between two generations; one looking at the present, the other at the past. Oh, and both have different ideas for the future.

Before the film, TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey introduced it by saying “There are forty-somethings in this film and twenty-somethings in this film, and what you make of it might depend on which group you identify with”. What was crazy for me was seeing it at an age that is smack-dab in between the two couples; an age where I can appreciate the romanticism and creativity of the younger along with the restlessness and longing of the older. We’re in a point in society where so many of the generational lines feel blurred, but the truth is that they are still there. We still measure ourselves by what the preceding generation did and what the following generation is doing. We want validation from both, and are going about it very selfishly.

To deliver this message, five glorious performances are turned in by Watts, Stiller, Seyfried, Driver, and Charles Grodin as the patriarch everyone seems to want respect from. This film is filled with joy, anxiety, art, ambition, humour, and cynicism. Were it to stick to comparing and contrasting the two couples, it would be enough. However, along with all of that comes a smartly delivered subplot I dare not call attention to just yet that ties everything together nicely.

This movie asks a lot of questions about whether we’re growing up right. It wonders where the line is between energetic and absurd. Are we attune to what is going on in the world, or are we “the old guy wearing a dumb hat”? Most importantly, it wonders aloud when it’s time to stop being selfish…and how selfishness can remain long after we feel like we’ve shed it.

If that’s not enough reason to watch this movie, you should track it down for the sight of a Beastie Boy wearing a baby sling.

Noah Baumbach has taken a long hard look at two generations and where they are in the world as we know it. No matter which generation you belong to, there will be something in this movie you identify with.