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While We’re Young (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 97 minutes.

OK for children.

This seems to be a new genre, 30- and 40somethings getting involved with, and being influenced by, 20somethings. Last year it was Keira Knightley in Laggies.  Now this.

Josh (Ben Stiller), 44, and his wife, Cornelia (Naomi Watts; we never know her age but she’s a contemporary of Josh’s) meet Jamie (Adam Driver) and his girlfriend, Darby (Amanda Seyfried), who are exuberantly in their 20s. Josh is a documentary filmmaker who has been working on a film for eight years. At the time we meet them Josh’s film is seven hours long and he refuses to cut anything (which is a representative portrayal of today’s auteur writer/directors). Cornelia is a producer who works for her father, Leslie (Charles Grodin), who is a famous documentarian. The relationship between Josh and Leslie is not good.

Josh and Cornelia meet Jamie and Darby and become entranced by their freedom and youth. Jamie is a free-thinking fledgling documentary filmmaker and says he’s a big fan of Josh’s, talking knowledgably about his only film. They become friends and hang out together, which affects the relationships of Josh and Cornelia with their old contemporary friends.

The acting is superb. Stiller gives a nuanced performance in a serious role and he’s ably supported by Watts. Driver is charming and believable and Grodin hits a home run in his small but important supporting role. Peter Yarrow, of Peter Paul and Mary, makes what for me was a surprising and effective appearance as Ira Mandelstam, someone Josh has been interviewing throughout his years of making his film. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has created a memorable film out of his astute script.

This is advertised as a comedy, but I didn’t see much funny in it. What it really is, is the story of idealism facing up to the the way things are in the movie industry. The ending is surprising but in touch with the real world.