While We’re Young
If turning 44 makes you wish you were young, does being 68 make you wish you were 44?
Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young joins a growing list of films that make it very hard to go to a movie theater. Coming from me, that comment probably seems very close to a practicing Muslim’s rejection of Mohammed as a disappointment.
Simply stated, this is a film that took a long time to go nowhere. Allegedly focusing on a married couple in their early 40s wrestling over their lost youth, it is as uninspired as Judd Apatow’s This is 40 (2012) which unsuccessfully tried to cover the same subject.
A clearly talented Screenwriter/Director, Mr. Baumbach makes the same fatal mistake with While We’re Young as he did with Greenberg (2010). Both starred Ben Stiller, and his characters become so unlikeable that his acting poisons the entire film.
Here he plays Josh, a depressed 44-year old film director who has spent nearly 10 years laboring over a documentary. The always captivating Naomi Watts plays his wife Cornelia, and they are a childless couple tormented by nearly everything going on around them.
Trying to embrace the reality of having no children, they are annoyed with the singular focus of several friends who adore their youngsters. Of the many lamentable things about this tragic film, one of the most demeaning is the way Mr. Baumbach chooses to treat parents as being little more than brainless idiots.
However, the weaknesses of this film don’t stop there. Stiller and Watts try to justify their childless marriage as allowing freedom to travel, yet they travel nowhere. Stiller can’t complete a documentary which ironically seems as boring as this film, and he continually misleads his cameraman with promises to pay him with money that never arrives.
At the heart of this film is a disastrous relationship that forms between our older couple and a much younger married duo played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. While it probably wouldn’t bother most of you a bit if I gave away the plot, suffice it to say that their accidental meeting turns out to mask the hidden intentions of our young groupies.
Initially attracted to the lifestyle of people in their 20s, the movie functions as a genetic malfunction where a butterfly enters a cocoon to turn into a caterpillar. The parties share romantic entanglements until Stiller finally discovers that he is being played for a fool.
While it was a gift from the Gods to again see Charles Grodin, here he plays the rather lackluster father of Ms. Watts whose previous success in films causes an estrangement with Mr. Stiller. Unfortunately, while Stiller tries to keep him at arms length, Mr. Driver has other intentions.
It is not easy to describe this widely praised film as being anything other than an irritating mess. I recently forced myself to sit through previews that showed a series of God-awful films like Ted 2, Magic Mike XXL and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, and it is sad to say that While We’re Young joins that illustrious trio. It truly becomes an effort to go to a theater when you have to choose between Nicholas Sparks’s The Longest Ride or Liam Neeson playing in another film where he is trying to save a family member from disaster.
I think I noted last year that I am an avid flower gardener, and spending time with my plants makes it difficult to break away during this season and make it to a theater to review a film. On the other hand, Spring is a magical time, so maybe Hollywood is unintentionally encouraging me to cultivate my plants and wait for the eventual interesting films to arrive in early Summer.