*** out of ****
Somewhere between the ages of 35-45, most people have an existential crisis of some sort. Your body starts betraying you in ways that hint at the inevitability of death, your youthful dreams don’t turn out as planned. You realize that, no matter how much you exercise, eat right, and think positive, you’ll never be young again.
Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts’ characters in writer/director Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young are going through such a crisis. Their friends all have kids (Watts’ character has miscarried several times) and Stiller’s once promising career as a documentary filmmaker has stalled. He says the only emotions he feels anymore are “wistful or disdainful.”
While teaching a class, he’s approached by a couple in their mid-20s (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). Driver is an aspiring filmmaker and the two couples quickly hit it off. Soon, Stiller and Watts are trying new things and Stiller even feels motivated as a filmmaker again.
But it’s not that simple. Stiller, in a way, looks up to the younger Driver, and when he finds out that Driver’s character has a tendency towards immaturity and selfishness, he goes into a deeper nosedive.
All of the performers are excellent. It’s especially nice to see Charles Grodin on screen again (as Watts’ father, a legendary filmmaker). There are moments when the film lags, but Baumbach’s script astutely observes that real change has to come from within. Other people may serve as a catalyst, but in the end, you’re responsible for your own growth.
If you’re looking for a good movie aimed at grown-ups, While We’re Young is worth your time and money.