Review: While We’re Young Has Too Much Going On
Title: While We’re Young
Director: Noah Baumbach
Screenwriter: Noah Baumbach
Principal Cast: Noami Watts, Ben Stiller, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, and Peter Yarrow
Summary:A middle-aged couple’s career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young enter their lives. — via IMDB
There is a common trope in movies that are about young couples using the concept that having a family is both terrifying and something that absolutely must happen. The movie is usually about the young couple going through something that makes them realize how much they want kids and everything is sunshine and rainbows once the kid comes. It’s a trope I personally can’t stand because I’m still young enough that people tell me I’m going to “change my mind” when I tell them I don’t want to have kids. I didn’t know that much about While We’re Young, but when I realized that this was a small production I figured it might finally have protagonists that don’t want kids and have that be okay.
While We’re Young might have some funny moments at the expense of different generations, but there is ultimately too much going on so that the entire production becomes very forgettable.
There are two main plots that are happening during this film. We have what I would call the “main story” about Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) as an older couple that is a little weirded out by their friends change in perspective now that they have kids. They meet a young couple Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) and they strike up a friendship despite the age difference. The second plot concerns Josh as a documentary filmmaker working on his magnum opus, and Jamie as another young documentary filmmaker. That plot ends up being about the ethics of documentary filmmaking as Jamie might not have sought out Josh as a friend for the right reasons. These two ideas would work well on their own but together it just makes both of them feel very underdeveloped.
The two conflicting plots also make the short runtime feel a lot longer because there is always so much going on. There aren’t any moments where anyone really feels like they get any real character development, and any messages that the movie is trying to get across ends up getting lost in the fray. At one point a friend of Josh’s says that having kids isn’t the life changing thing it’s made out to be, yet at the same time the message of the movie is the complete opposite. They spend a lot of time on the ethics of documentary filmmaking, but there isn’t any pay off for any of the characters in the end, While Stiller and Watts are both likable enough their characters aren’t allowed to really find any closure. Driver and Seyfried are taking huge swipes at the hipster lifestyle and maybe trying to make a point about the simpler times that doesn’t seem to really pay off.
My final point is going to need something I try not to do in a review and that is a spoiler warning. The ending to the movie was really the thing that stuck with me, in the wrong way. If you don’t want to be spoiled for the end of While We’re Young just skip this paragraph. As I said I am choosing not to have children and I very rarely see someone like me in a movie without it being seen as a bad thing. We find out about halfway through the movie that Josh and Cornelia aren’t childless by choice but because Cornelia had two miscarriages and she didn’t want to try again. At the very end of the movie, out of nowhere, we find Josh and Cornelia going to Haiti to adopt a baby. The moment is so quick and unmentioned that I know for a fact that a fellow critic missed it while taking notes. The movie falls into the same trap of “family is inevitable and the right thing so accept it” that I’m so sick of seeing. You planted the seed, movie, now grow the tree.
While We’re Young is not offensive, or even bad, but the conflicting plots and lack of direction with the story not only bog down the pacing but the movie itself. It’s utterly forgettable to the point that I wrote the wrong title when I started this review and I saw it less than a week ago. There isn’t much else out right now, so if you’re looking for a 90 minute distraction you’ll forget an hour after it happens I suppose it might be worth a matinee. Otherwise, wait for Netflix or skip it entirely.