One of the first things I realized after watching Noah Baumbach’s latest film, While We’re Young, is that the quirky director must have really hated The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst if he watched it. One of the many things on the mind of this film is the morality of taking creative liberties in documentary filmmaking, and the film no doubt makes an interesting discussion about the topic. Just like the now famous HBO documentary series, While We’re Young is narratively ambitious. Unfortunately, there is so much on the mind of While We’re Young that it seems to lose its way in so many different and interesting ideas. It’s a noble effort for sure, but a problematic film in the end.
While We’re Young follows a forty-something couple (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) going through the motions. That is until they meet a much younger couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) that entices them into the world of their generation. Slowly, a battle between generations begins to emerge, though.
There is a lot to like in this film. There are both interesting ideas and interesting characters. There are some in depth discussions on interesting and important topics like the effectiveness of marriage as an institution, ethics in documentary filmmaking, the fight the younger generation has to endure to be accepted and the need to cheat to get ahead. Meanwhile, Adam Driver’s Jamie is one of the more unique and memorable characters you will see in a film this year. It also helps that the other three main characters work quite well too.
Yet despite all of this, the film seems like it only amounts to a mishmash of concepts that don’t really gel together. Noah Baumbach’s style works for a long time but when it comes to the third act nothing really comes together as his laidback style seems to hinder the film. Baumbach still finds the right moments to place in humor and his quirkiness still works when it’s supposed to but this ultimately seems like a missed opportunity to make his greatest film yet. The material is there, but the execution just isn’t.
While We’re Young is an ambitious effort from Noah Baumbach. It captures the realism of the situations showcased within while still finding time for its quirkiness. Unfortunately, Baumbach strives a little too far and ends up with a film that can only be described as an interesting failure.