It’s become habitual for movies to pair ordinary (Ben Stiller) or geeky (Adam Driver) comedic men with unusually beautiful women like Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfriend. Of course we would accept this if these men were playing the movie stars they actually are but that type of unbalanced casting starts us off being incredulous when the males are playing losers (Ben Stiller) or wannabes (Adam Driver). The latter is more than a foot taller than Stiller yet there’s a scene where Ben dons Adam’s jacket and roller-blades - both of which fit perfectly. It’s a minor moment but another peg for the incredulity board which is disconcerting in a movie that purports to poke fun in the mores of contemporary urban twenty and forty-somethings. If the object of the poke isn’t recognizably authentic, there’s no stuffing in the satire.
“While We’re Young,” the latest film by Noah Baumbach presents Stiller and Watts as a married couple who gave up trying for children after several miscarriages. Now surrounded by friends who are the stereotypical helicopter parents, they find salvation in an offbeat young couple who groove to a more avant garde beat and seem to be up for anything adventurous from walking through subway tunnels to group tripping on hallucinogenic potions. Stiller, in particular, becomes besotted with his new bro-mance and mimics the affect of the younger man to distinct disadvantage. As the film progresses, there are increasing plot devices which would alert anyone who was awake to the invasion of boundaries between the two men yet Stiller doesn’t get it until far too late in the game. Eventually, he has his “aha” moment and gets to the bottom of his friend’s fraudulent tactics which he exposes in an embarrassing and preposterous scene at a tribute for his well known documentarian father-in-law. Suffice it to say that in addition to making a fool of himself, he is a victim of fire and water and the omnipresent mini-video cam.
What the film doesn’t explore is any realization on our hero’s part that he was using his young friend to energize his tired marriage and own despondency as much as his friend was appropriating all of his personal and professional contacts. And are we really meant to believe that a man who hasn’t been able to finish his film for eight years comes to a ”voila” moment and simply does it? At heart, this is a sloppy film about caricatures whom we’ve met on sitcoms and in many Apatow movies dwelling on men suffering from arrested development. The problem with both young and older in this movie has little to do with this generation’s dependence on devices and social media and more to do with the hollowness of their predicaments and characters. The problem is that they aren’t really complicated enough to hold our attention despite initially capturing it.
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