Ben Stiller’s character Josh is somewhat futilely teaching a college class about film, as makers of documentaries who somehow find themselves tip-toeing into their mid-40s while still working on his second piece for close to a decade now. Damn that malfunctioning PowerPoint.
After, a robust young couple engage him in conversation about his lecture, and then his out-of-print debut work. Teacher bites, and he and wife Cornelia end up at their favorite Chinese place with Jamie and Darby. The couples, obviously a generation apart, click.
Directed and written by Noah Baumbach, While We’re Young is an absorbing little comedy in a quirky moralist’s sheep outfit. The 2015 title and plot description caught my eye as I wrote listings for its Oct. 10 screening during the Foreign and Independent Film release rotation at my workplace, the Liverpool Public Library. Alas, the 6:30 p.m. showtime passed me by, so I vowed to take it home on Blu-Ray on loan on my LPL library card from the MediaBank machine.
Indeed, the back-and-forth generational play gives plenty of room for Naomi Watts and Stiller, and Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried, to mine humorous moments as the main married couples. Baumbach, also writer of Greenberg and Frances Ha, places nice introspective touches inside, such as Josh’s amazement that Jamie listens to his music on vinyl, and Cornelia’s slow first steps and then full immersion into Darby’s hip-hop dance classes.
There’s more to this story, too. Jamie is a film-maker with a big project on his mind. Cornelia’s father is a rather famous film-maker who shows his disappointment in his son-in-law readily. And Josh and Cornelia’s old friends – in both senses of that word – are new parents who want to pull them into the baby-bearing world, a life step they don’t want to, or can’t, or some mix of both, take.
Charles Grodin is expectedly and pleasingly dry as Cornelia’s dad, gray-haired and haughty as he’s ready to receive a big lifetime award. Adam Horovitz, of Beastie Boys fame, does confused/frazzled/hurt and more quite well as the old friend, and Maria Dizzia acts indignantly just right to give grief to her old friend.
When the light bulb goes on over Josh’s head, everything gets pretty angry and unsettled for a stretch.
Life is like that, no matter the generation, you’re never too old to discover.
What is the last independent movie you’ve seen, and why? Have you ever suspected a new friend’s motives, and if so, why? Which is your favorite Ben Stiller movie, and why?