While We’re Young

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While We’re Young

Any film that talks about the generation gap – or even considers pitting young people against old – is treading on some pretty dodgy territory. People are pretty much people whatever their age: once you start making sweeping generalisations, you stop saying things that make much sense. Fortunately writer/director Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, Greenberg) is too smart to fall into any of those obvious traps, though for a while there the story of Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), two mid-40s New Yorkers, occasionally leans pretty hard on some fairly obvious angles.
Josh is a documentary film-maker who’s been working on his second film for over a decade with no end in sight; she’s a producer (her father is a famous documentary maker; she met Josh when he was working for him) who Josh doesn’t want to work with. All their friends are having babies, and their decision not to (partly down to lifestyle, partly down to biology) is starting to isolate them. So when Jamie (Adam Driver) shows up in Josh’s class and praises him to the sky then asks him out to dinner, it’s rapidly the start of a beautiful friendship.
Jamie also makes doco’s, though of a much looser kind; Jamie’s wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried) makes artisanal ice cream (what they do for actual money remains kind of vague). They watch VHS on standard definition television, get around on bicycles, type on typewriters and play board games: it’s a whole new world for Josh and Cornelia, and – for a while – they’re happy to fall into it. This middle stretch relies a little heavily on some cheap gags (white people “hip-hop” dancing?), but all four characters are well-enough defined to make the jokes about them as individuals rather than “young people” or “old people” as a whole. It’s when things start to fall apart that this really picks up, as this turns out to be less about the divide between young and old as it is the gap between people who get things done and people who just wish they could. It’s maybe not as smart as it thinks it is, but it’s still funny and insightful into the minds of creative types – and some of those jokes about hat-wearing hipsters really hit home.