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Film review: While We're Young - Noah Baumbach braves generation gap

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a childless, middle-aged couple in a story that manages to strike a balance between mockery and empathy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2015, 11:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2015, 11:06pm

The importance of ageing gracefully is examined with both humour and pain in the sharply observed While We're Young, a satire that's more brutally honest than it is impertinent. The casting of Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a childless middle-aged couple is, on its own, a daring move for all involved.

After excelling as a failed musician in 2010's Greenberg, Stiller returns as a once-promising filmmaker in another New York-set comedy of manners by writer-director Noah Baumbach. Here, he plays Josh, whose refusal to wrap a decade-in-the-making documentary leads to much frustration for his wife, Cornelia (Watts), and her father, the master documentarian Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin).

When they befriend Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a disarming hipster couple 20 years their junior, Josh and Cornelia quickly ditch their old friends for an invigorated lifestyle of bohemian pursuits. But as their attempt to re-embrace youth proves more trying, Josh becomes aware that the careerist Jamie — also a filmmaker — has Cornelia's father in his sights.

In a beautiful balancing act between mockery and empathy, Baumbach makes his viewers laugh at the elder couple's silly attempts to stay fresh while also daring them to discount life's possibilities for the sake of appearing normal. Even if it fails to meaningfully bridge the intergenerational gap, the film's ambiguous attitude towards dreams and self-delusions is enough to intrigue.

While We're Young opens on August 20