Noah Baumbach is officially back on song. With The Squid And The Whale, the writer-director could have been this generation’s Woody Allen, but that was ten years ago and caustic dramas about unrelatable characters (Margot At The Wedding, Greenberg) stalled the progress. But 2012’s Frances Ha was a return to form and this latest ditty cements the comeback. While We’re Young is a hoot.
Documentary maker Stiller and producer Watts are a disappointed forty-something Brooklyn couple. Childless, they can no longer relate to their new-parent friends and ten years on from his promising debut Stiller struggles to finish his latest opus. He’s approached by fan Adam Driver and, flattered by his praise, begins to hang out with the young Driver and his wife Amanda Seyfried. Initially helping young Driver advance his filmmaking career, Stiller begins to suspect that Driver is feigning friendship to get ahead…
In short, it’s hilarious. Baumbach’s clever observations and withering deconstructions echo Woody Allen in his pomp. The writer-director gets the balancing act just right. He admires the energy, the carefree attitude, the lack of hang ups of the younger generation and is very seductive (the film opens with an elongated caption from Ibsen’s The Master Builder). He has genuine affection for the hipsters (Driver and Seyfriend look fun to hang out with) but then sets about poking fun at the culture.
Because it’s a culture that deserves poking fun at. What’s cool is not cool and what’s not cool is still not cool unless it knows why it’s not cool then it’s cool. What’s old is new. Marriage, once deemed old fashioned and oppressive, is back in, as are typewriters, VHS, and board games. Driver and friends listen to Foreigner and Lionel Richie without irony. On vinyl. "I remember when this song was just bad," says Stiller when Driver pops on Eye Of The Tiger. Baumbach here is in danger of being Grandpa Simpson bemoaning not being ‘with it’ anymore but always pulls back from the brink. Until the end that is.
There are some missteps that feel parachuted in from a Vince Vaughn comedy (the shaman/vomiting party) but where Baumbach lets himself down is the final act. The laughs slip away as the comedy becomes hijacked by a rant at a younger generation, with Stiller determined to out Driver for the fraud he is; Stiller might be banging on about the importance of authenticity and honesty and objectivity (a message that gets lost) but he’s really just Eugene Levy in Splash here. And the female characters are underwritten.
But the Stiller-Driver bromance, with the two leads in fine fettle, deliver the laughs.