WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (2015, Noah Baumbach)
Plenty of good stuff here for a story that’s ultimately not very good. Sabotages itself by going in all the lamest directions once it establishes its themes. And those themes are interesting, even if they’re ones Baumbach has been wrestling with in nearly every one of his films to date. But it has a few new things to say about aging, youth, and adults who can’t grow up: there’s the idea that young people aren’t as guileless, liberated, vivacious, and defense-free as old people think; those are just projections. People are always that bad; some just hide it better. Also, there’s the idea that using the latest technologies doesn’t make you young — in fact it’s usually the oldest people at the conference room table with the iPads (for example, nobody my age that I hang out with has one, but both of my parents do). The montage of Stiller and Watts slaving over their phones, tablets, cords, and wires intercut with Driver and Seyfried using analog equipment like typewriters and vinyl, playing basketball outdoors, etc. — it’s a keen observation about how aging isn’t in your lack of understanding of modern life, it’s in your lack of openness to it (echoed in one of the closing scenes with Grodin).
But for all of these smart — and quite funny, in many places — thoughts, Baumbach shoots himself in the foot by concocting a ridiculous third act about betrayal and artifice, then preaching to us with heavy-handed monologues and confrontations about truth in documentaries, the nature of communication, and blah blah blah shut up. I never thought I’d say this, but exploring the marriage between Stiller and Watts would be more interesting. (Plus, Watts gives one of the film’s best performances and deserved a more fleshed out role than this).
One more thing: almost stealing the entire movie is, amazingly, Ryan Serhant as a douchey investor. His character gets the biggest laughs in the two or three scenes he’s in, and what shocked me about how good Serhant is is that I only know him as a real estate agent, one of the stars of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing: New York. Turns out all that practice in front of the camera for a reality show got him comfortable, and also turns out he has a theater degree and was on As the World Turns for 19 episodes before he became a realtor. He’s a douche on the TV show, but now I’m wondering if it’s all an act — he’s too good in this movie not to be self-aware. If Bravo cancels his show, I hope he quits real estate to go into comedy acting for a living now.