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|While Were Young|
dir-scr Noah Baumbach
prd Scott Rudin, Noah Baumbach, Eli Bush, Lila Yacoub
with Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, Maria Dizzia, Adam Horovitz, Dree Hemingway, Brady Corbet, Matthew Maher, Peter Yarrow, Matthew Shear
release US 27.Mar.15, UK 3.Apr.15
On the road: Stiller, Seyfried, Watts and Driver
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With a script that's rather too pointed, this gentle comedy-drama explores that moment when a person realises that there's another, hungrier generation coming up behind them chasing the same dreams. It's a clever premise, and the film is packed with meaningful observations, even if very little about the script feels organic or natural.
In their early 40s, Josh and Cornelia (Stiller and Watts) are more aware than ever of the fact that they don't have children. In addition to the pressure to become parents, Josh is feeling frustrated that he still has nothing to show after working on his latest documentary for eight years. Then he meets aspiring filmmaker Jamie (Driver), an old-school 25-year-old married to Darby (Seyfried). Soon the two couples are hanging out, as Josh and Cornelia begin to rekindle their youthful energy while also getting involved in Jamie's own documentary project.
Writer-director Baumbach packs the film with parallel ideas. For example, Josh collects CDs and DVDs while Jamie collects LPs and VHS tapes. These inversions are initially witty but begin to become naggingly contrived as the story progresses, constantly riffing on the gap between generations, especially as it encompasses the film industry itself. And there's a further generational touch with the inclusion of Cornelia's father (Grodin), a respected documentarian who clearly threatens Josh's self-image.
All of this feels so carefully constructed that it's difficult to believe. While the dialog is packed with smart comments and snappy repartee, and the characters are complex enough for the actors to make something interesting out of all of them, everything has the vague whiff of artificiality about it. This leaves Stiller especially looking rather awkward and unlikeable, as Josh's oddly harsh reactions to everything and everyone come across as scripted, simply because they're so inexplicable.
Yes, the film is about the dawning rays of middle age, focussing on the discovery that perhaps those brightly promising years are behind you. It's a great topic that's rarely explored to this much depth on-screen, but Baumbach's approach is an odd mix of strident commentary and frankly irrelevant set pieces, such as Cornelia's sudden obsession with hip-hop aerobics or a drug-fuelled Ayahuascan party. So in the end everything feels strangely diffused and tangential, missing the point that everyone has to face this realisation in his or her own way. And that there isn't a correct path through it.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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