Movie Review: “While We’re Young”

While We’re Young’s premise sounded to me like sheer comedy gold: a young couple, one of which is a struggling documentary filmmaker (Ben Stiller, whose comic talents soared in the great Meet the Parents), meets another young couple that’s pretty different from them, but really do seem to be nice people—at first.

And it’s both written and directed by the celebrated Noah Baumbach, so how could I refuse? Now admittedly, I haven’t seen anything else by Baumbach yet, so I’m not about to judge him based on this one movie of his, but let’s just say that it didn’t really leave me with a good first impression of his work.

Is Young funny at times? Absolutely—Stiller isn’t at his best here, but he’s still pretty solid overall, and everybody else, including Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, and a Beastie Boy (Adam Horovitz, known on-stage as Ad-Rock) gets at least one moment to shine as well.

In fact, the first few minutes were actually pretty enjoyable in that regard, and I was convinced that I was in for a really good time. Unfortunately, it seriously loses track after that promising opener, and becomes a tedious, uneven drag that only delivers the gut-busting comedy I had hoped for in a few scattered moments. Maybe it could’ve worked as a 20-minute Portlandia episode (in fact, the film often felt a lot like a pointlessly extended version of a tolerable-enough Portlandia skit, or maybe a lazy Woody Allen knockoff), but as a 97-minute movie, it just doesn’t work.

At times, the film even seems to be aware of this, and mocks that in scenes of Stiller’s character trying to sell his newest film, a difficult avant-garde project dismissed by many as really boring. While We’re Young isn’t difficult or avant-garde, mind you, but it is boring. Not much happens in terms of plot or humor at all, and the spats between the two couples that I had hoped for are bizarrely far and few between, like Baumbach reluctantly scribbled some “conflict” into the screenplay in order to keep things moving.

Speaking of conflict, Young’s final stretch includes a major plot twist, a twist so momentous that I frankly did not see it coming at all. If the film had had more of a forward momentum, something to keep me from mentally and emotionally checking out less than halfway through, I would’ve cared more about this, but at least it shows Baumbach trying to do something different than the same old shtick. Or at least, it would have if it hadn’t lead to the forced, overdramatic cheeseball of an ending, which would’ve been more hilarious if it wasn’t taken so darn seriously. Oh well.

5/10

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