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Title: While We're Young

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:75

I’m not sure whose film this really is. Is it Ben Stiller’s, or is it Noah Baumbach’s? Both of them seem to gravitate towards each other as Ben’s slapstick style of comedy seems to be following the Bill Murray” pattern, and Noah seems to love Ben’s dry, sardonic humor for his films (ala “Greenberg). The more I watch the film, the more it feels like it’s an intermingling of BOTH artists. Ben puts his heart and soul into these types of films, while Noah…..Noah’s guiding the entire process with an intimately familiar hand. “While We’re Young” takes a look at the generations that we’re a part of right now and how each individual generation defines their values of right, wrong, and their outlook on life. It starts out as a simple tale of two older people trying to recapture their youth, but abruptly takes a sharp turn into a much darker and more philosophical piece on ethics and honesty.

Documentarian Josh (Ben Stiller) and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are kind of at a standstill. Their marriage is in that “comfortable” zone where it just exists, with Josh’s 8 year long documentary project looking more and more futile as time goes on, and Cornelia frustrated beyond belief as she watches all her friends around her have children and graduate into the “parents” group, leaving her behind (at least in her eyes). Josh is mired in his own self-doubt regarding his documentary, frustrated by the lack of funding and feeling humiliated by Cornelia’s wildly successful baby boomer generation documentarian farther. This all changes when they meet Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a 20 something couple who are best described by that evil word…….Hipsters. Not just the ones who wear a fedora and listen to vinyl while wearing skinny pants, but the uber involved hipster who desperately clings to an analogue world that they had no part of because it’s “retro”, and goes to shaman rituals to “cleanse their inner demons”, while poo pooing the rest of society for being “fakes”, and “old fogeys”. While the 40+ year olds and the 20 somethings don’t seem to have anything in common, they bond over documentary making and soon enough Josh and Cornelia are sucked into Jamie and Darby’s exciting world. Flying by the seat of their pants the duo are soon living things they hadn’t lived for 20 years and experiencing the cool new world of the “eh, I’ll shrug it off” generation.

Josh helps out Jamie with his budding work as a documentary film maker and Cornelia offers to produce the film for him, starting off a budding working relationship that soon spirals out of control. Not to spoil anything, but certain events in the movie unfold that reveal that there is more to this friendship than meets the eye. Jamie has a darker side to him that isn’t noticeable on the surface, and that carefree, la se faire personal is just that. A persona. That’s not to say that Josh is completely innocent either. He craves success like I crave ice cream (which is a lot), and his jealous nature soon collides with the manipulating and narcissistic Jamie, leading up to a confrontation that brings Josh to the point of epiphany and back again, causing him to reassess his goals, his aspirations as well as ideas about himself.

I both liked and disliked “While We’re Young” at the same time, and not because I don’t understand Noah Baumbach’s message. I do and wildly disagree with it. Noah Baumbach bears many similarities to Wes Anderson, not just because he studied everything about the man, but because he is a close personal friend and has worked on many of Wes’s films over the years. I vastly prefer Wes over Noah for several reasons, the main one being that Wes is a quirky romantic. Noah tends to be more narcissistic, much like Jamie. “While We’re Young” encapsulates Noah’s thoughts on ethics in film making, as well as his interpretation of the Gen Z to the Baby Boomer generations and their social statuses. The first act of the film seems to be dealing with regaining lost youth and the trials of having to grow up, but soon enough it delves into a commentary on what is honesty, and what really matters, the journey or the results. Had Noah not mentioned in a press interview that he tended to personally related to Jamie more than Josh I might have shrugged the uncomfortable feeling that the bad guy “wins” as me misinterpreting the meaning of the film. However, with that knowledge I rewatched the movie and have to conclude that Baumbach was using the film to iterate his opinions on the “stodgey” older generation who are too obsessed with honesty in film making, and not focusing on the end result, not matter how Machiavellian that may be.

Had it not been fantastic performances by Naomi, Ben and Adam, I would have written off “While We’re Young” as being mediocre, much like “Greenberg”, but their individual performances kept me riveted. Ben and Naomi feel about as beautifully organic and synchronized on screen as anyone can be. Their frustrations, their fears and their conflicts are perfectly relatable and palpable. Amanda Seyfried was the weak link, but luckily they kept her playing the hippie ditz, which works well for her. On the flipside, Adam Driver was INCREDIBLE as the self-absorbed narcissistic Jamie. You loathe him so much at the end of the movie you want to reach through the screen and punch him, which says a lot since he can be that likeable funny guy in so many movies.


Rated R for Language

Video :4stars:
Noah Baumbach’s cinematography in “While We’re Young” is intentionally a bit flat, pale in nature and given a honey colored color grading that sometimes leans toward washed out blacks and some overt softness. However, this is par for the course with a Baumbach film and very much an intentional method for the director. The framing can be a bit awkward and the cuts a bit harsh, but again, this is completely intentional by the director as he tries to tell as much a visual story as one told by the dialog in the script. Colors are a bit light, and desaturated , but there are certainly some very nice primaries littering the screen as well as a plethora of golden honey colored tinges to those primaries. Blacks are usually very solid, but as I mentioned earlier, that unique honey grading sometimes leaves them a bit washed out and the shadow detail can suffer as a result. The digitally shot film is free of any manipulation by the studio, and besides some very mild banding at times, the encode look excellent.

Audio :4stars:
Much like the filming style, the simple, yet effective 5.1 DTS-HD MA track on board the disc is intentionally different than your average film, but more than adequate for the job. Dialog is crystal clear and well defined, ranging from a soft whisper in a crowded restaurant, to crazy screaming and yelling down the street at ear splitting decibels. The dynamic range is actually extremely wide, as Noah Baumbach loves to startle the listener with some abrupt volume changes and shifts in tone. The film is mainly dialog driven, so the surround channels can be a bit silent at times, but there is enough ambient noises and soft indie music filling up the background to light them up when necessary. LFE is soft and subtle, but definitely present, especially during the music. It’s not an action track, but a well done drama track, with some definitely unique uses of silence and quiet as a means of communication. Solid A in my book.

Extras :2.5stars:
• 6 Behind-the-Scenes Vignettes:
-"The Cast"
-"Working with Filmmaker Noah Baumbach"
-"Generation Tech"
-"Working with Charles Grodin"
-"Ayahuasca Ceremony"
-"Hip-Hop Class"
• Trailers

Overall: :3.5stars:

I can’t say that I agree with Noah Baumbach’s ascertains dealing with the flexible ethics that he holds so dear, but I do say it made for a wonderfully entertaining rollercoaster ride. My emotions were switching from elated, to exhausted, to furious, back to elated once more as the film progresses. I have a few problems with the ending, but other than that it is a poignant and disturbingly accurate commentary on a select demographic in our modern society, showing both the negative and positive sides of each. I only wish the character arcs of the women had been a little more fleshed out in comparison to the male leads, as their story was actually more interesting. Solid video, solid audio and a decent amount of extras leads me to recommend this one for a rental, a definite watch, though, if you’re a Baumbach fan.

Additional Information:

Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Written by: Noah Baumbach
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated: R
Runtime: 97 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 30th 2015

Buy While We're Young On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Rental

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