The first act of While We’re Young, the new movie from Noah Baumbach, rings so true, it was like having my head stuck in a bell tower with a group of over enthusiastic campanologists.
In a week dominated by Cinderella, Fast and Furious 7 and a wealth of kids movies, it was a relief to find a low budget, New York-centric comedy drama aimed at people like me: middle aged lovers of film making, stuck in that dead space of wanting to be credible in a world which seems to worship the 10 second clip, three second sound bite or people famous for doing nothing.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Ben Stiller for the past decade, bored by his average Joe schtick, and miffed by the fact people seem to find him hilarious in the Night at the Museum and Meet the Parents movies. However, my respect for him grew after making Walter Mitty, and that Bear Grylls survival show
If I met him down the pub I imagine we’d get on like a house on fire, talking movies and filmmaking and the whole thing about getting older.
That certainly comes across in his latest movie. Ben plays Josh, a documentary maker of integrity who’s spent eight years working on perhaps the dullest film ever. But he believes in it, and it has substance, even if few people will ever sit through it.
So after Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a couple of young film loving, ice cream-making hipsters, attend one of his lectures, Josh and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) form an instant bond.
Before long they are hanging out, swapping ideas and music; Cornelia is attending hip hop dance classes and Josh is dressing more like Jamie.
Given the fact the fortysomethings feel alienated by all their friends with newborns and baby brain, it’s little wonder they gravitate toward the younger, more vital new mates.
However, as the movie unfolds, it seems there’s more to Jamie than meets the eye, and the freshness gives way to a weak, overlong spiritual awakening, hippy dippy section, and a third act lecturing on the pros and cons of morality in film making.
For its faults, this is an engaging diversion with a fine cast and a great soundtrack. Stiller is hugely likeable; Watts and Seyfried as compelling as ever and Driver plays it just right as the too-cool-for-school Jamie.
I guessed our screening would have about 10 attendees, and wasn’t far off with 12. But it’s great to see an art house movie being shown at a multiplex as an alternative to the mainstream crowd pleasers.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, there’s no hip ops in the movie, but ’Hipsters, Hip Hop and “rheumatism, rheumatism”’ wouldn’t have worked as well.