Readers may have noticed that the last few movies I’ve written about were all “movies I’ve wanted to see for a long time” and also “movies I did not enjoy as much as I thought I would.” Some, like Picnic at Hanging Rock, were interesting and I’m glad I saw them, but . . . none of them were particularly enjoyable. So since I have officially lost movie-picking privileges for a while, I watched something my wife wanted to see: While We’re Young.
While We’re Young is the age-appropriate version of the 90s indie films I devoured in college (Walking and Talking, The Last Days of Disco, Hav Plenty, and so on). I say age-appropriate because its protagonists are in their early 40s rather than early 20s, and their reactions to obsessed parents and eye-rolling hipsters are very much in sync with my current worldview. In a sense the movie feels slightly dated, in that its building blocks haven’t changed much in 20 years. Like its predecessors, some of which were made by writer/director Noah Baumbach, it features New York City and its associated cool places to hang out, lots of talking, and very little action but also very little real drama. For instance, While We’re Young‘s characters have movie problems with movie emotions and movie solutions: a couple can’t have kids, they both agree it’s too bad and grow slightly apart from their friends who are parents, and then they manage to adopt a baby at the end – but there is no sense of the real emotional toll this might take on them. But stakes these low are more appropriate for a movie about vapid 25-year-olds, as being hopelessly in love with your roommate is both a movie problem and a 25-year-old problem. I need a little more complexity for the 44-year-old problems in While We’re Young.
There is one scene in the movie, however, that I really liked, although it’s a little incongruous. Near the end, the protagonist confronts his young friend turned nemesis, and everything about the scene – music (a synth score I can’t get out of my head), blocking, lighting – feels like a thriller. Apparently, this was intentional, as Baumbach’s usual DOP said that the movie was shot to look like a 70s Woody Allen picture, and this scene was their 70s conspiracy thriller homage. It felt like a scene from a stranger but more interesting movie. Others have complained that this is a tonal departure from the rest of the film (which I agree with), and a misstep (which I don’t). I actually wish the rest of the film were more like this, rather than less.
That said, I enjoyed While We’re Young. I liked it better than Picnic at Hanging Rock, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Two Days and One Night. Those movies weren’t bad – they just weren’t enjoyable. Just like While We’re Young wasn’t bad – just not interesting.
P.S. I’m not sure if I was more surprised to see Ryan from Million Dollar Listing New York in this, or that he was good. This gives new hope to my remake of Gone Girl with Luis as Desi . . .