A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
We’re sitting in an empty theatre on a Thursday night. Are we overly early? No, it turns out that no other couples (or single people for that matter) want to see “While We’re Young”, the new Ben Stiller comedy/ social commentary.
All I have to say regarding this matter is, too bad for them, they don’t know what they’re missing! Films that pleasantly surprise you from the offset and continue to do so throughout are the best kind of films. Needless to say, “While We’re Young” is a great example to emerge from 2015.
I’m currently taking a documentary production class at university, so “While We’re Young” struck a particular chord with me.
Ben Stiller plays Josh, a relatively successful documentarian facing the struggles of middle age with his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts). After meeting a young couple at a lecture he was teaching and proceeding to get lunch with them, Josh, along with Cornelia, are drawn to Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), a fascinatingly ‘together’ pair of youngsters.
Jamie is a practicing documentarian and Darby is the supportive girlfriend who also makes fancy and trendy organic ice cream; they’re the perfect couple. Oh, and they’re married too. They also live a super-hip apartment and have an extensive record collection. Jamie doesn’t use Facebook either; he’s so cool like that. Oh yeah! And they go to these, like, spiritual ceremonies that clear their bodies of evil spirits through hallucination and stuff! They’re just soooooo cool, you know?
Anyway, rather than losing track with commenting on the couple that every couple wants to be, I’ll continue on with the film.
As the two pairs begin to grow closer, they learn a lot from each other about age, commitment, fulfilment, creation, image, relativity and life. The back-and-forth tone between the couples is delicious to watch, especially early on. There is so much to be said from these opening few scenes. “While We’re Young” is a great social commentary that is very self-aware and unwavering in its intentions.
The parallels between young and old are explored very cleverly within the film, not obviously, which is great. The shifts between trends, the norm and the constant struggle to remain in denial about who you are is something that makes the film great to watch develop.
The generational comparisons aren’t limited to just the Gen Y’s and Gen X’s though. There is a subplot that ties in Josh’s father-in-law and the tensions that come with that.
Cornelia’s father is an accomplished and celebrated documentarian who isn’t overly wrapt with Stiller’s determination within the profession. What comes of this is not just a clash of egos, it’s a clash of inter-generational, creative, professional and family-based egos!
Going in to the film expecting to see Ben Stiller play Ben Stiller as he does so often, I was shocked to see a really toned down performance that could have passed for a full-on dramatic master class. It’s not quite that level of exceptional, however Stiller offers one of his best performances of late as Josh.
Naomi Watts is very good as Cornelia, much better than her limited screen time in “Birdman” or her questionable efforts in “St. Vincent”.
But it’s really about Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried as the young pair of lovers. Not only are they perfect at epitomising a certain type of ‘young’, they offer significant arks within the story that forever change the way Josh and Cornelia look at themselves and what they do.
The film loses track a little bit within the second act, but the finale is where it really picks itself up and finishes strong.
Overall, “While We’re Young” is a fantastically surprising dramady that has a lot to say about social issues of today. It’s the classic old vs. young conundrum but so much more and is definitely with your time if you have a chance. It won’t change your life, but it may offer an insight into how you want to grow up and learn to live with yourself, and that’s worth the price of a ticket in my book!
With a great cast, diverse narrative and David Bowie’s “Golden Years” to escort you out, “While We’re Young” is a pleasant surprise.
I have one major criticism of the film however. Stiller sports a fedora for about two thirds of the film… I don’t care who you are, nobody and I mean nobody, looks good in a fedora!