Movie review: Noah Baumbach's new comedy "While We're Young" pits hipster-vs.-oldster

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In Noah Baumbach’s last film, “Frances Ha,” he examined what it’s like to be an aimless, confused 20-something in New York City. In “While We’re Young,” Baumbach examines what it’s like to be an aimless, confused 40-something in New York City.

Baumbach’s signature style — part Woody Allen neurosis, part Wes Anderson whimsy — can be divisive. His most lauded film is likely still the excellent “The Squid & the Whale,” but it should be noted that I’m such a fan of Baumbach that I totally loved his most divisive, the cringeworthy comedy of “Greenberg.”

“While We’re Young” is a case of a director’s perspective changing with age. Baumbach often works in the thinly veiled autobiography — notable exception: the female-fronted “Frances Ha” was co-written by his star (and real-life partner) Greta Gerwig. “While We’re Young” is a relatable (at least to this critic) tale of a middle-aged couple who feel very much in the middle.

We meet Josh and Cornelia (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) as they’re trying to comfort a newborn. When the infant starts crying, Cornelia lets out a relatable, “What the fuck do we do?”

Fortunately (for the child), the baby isn’t theirs. Josh and Cornelia are the childless couple among friends with kids. Feeling disconnected, they are engaged in a new friendship with hipster documentarian Jamie (Adam Driver) and his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried).

Before they know it, Josh and Cornelia are pounding PBRs with Brooklynites half their age. They get a youthful rush, even if they don’t quite relate. “This is just like my record collection,” Josh says, admiring Jamie’s vinyl, “except mine are all CDs.”

Baumbach hits a lot of obvious comedy with this hipsters-meet-oldsters setup, but “While We’re Young” is the funniest movie of 2015 so far. A scene involving the couples taking a semi-ceremonial trip on the psychedelic Ayahuasca (complete with puke buckets) is one of the silliest — and funniest — of the year.

Stiller and Driver (“Girls”) don’t stray at all from their type, and that’s perfect casting. I’m always happy to see Watts — far better here than in “St. Vincent” — and Seyfried rounds out a perfectly cast cast.

“While We’re Young” isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s insightful, thoughtful and, above-all, funny. And it’s even got a Beastie Boy (Adam Horovitz as a new dad).

A24 photo

"While We're Young"

Opens Friday

3 1/2 stars out of 4