Noah Baumbach‘s While We’re Young is his snappiest and most commercially appealing film yet. Not as darkly hilarious as Greenberg or as visually ravishing and mood-trippy as Frances Ha, but it’ll be well reviewed and catch on with most under-50 urban sophistos. It’s a nimble, fast-moving, culturally attuned relationship dramedy about a generational chasm (late 20somethings vs. early 40somethings) or more precisely the vague sense of anxiety that somewhat older guys have about younger guys in their field or realm — a fear of being out-hustled or out-clevered and possibly even left behind if they’re not careful. That would be Ben Stiller, a somewhat old-school, gone-stale documentarian who’s fascinated and flattered by the attentions of Adam Driver, a GenY hipster documentarian. Stiller is also a wee bit inimidated by Driver, and there’s the rub. Their saner, more emotionally healthy significant others are played by Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfried and there are plenty more rubs coming from their end also. (“I’m not sure I want to be rubbed by you at all” — Rex Harrison‘s Julius Caesar in Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s Cleopatra.)
I won’t spoil (I can’t — it’s 1:20 pm and the next film starts in 40 minutes) but While We’re Young is more than a little similar to Woody Allen‘s Crimes and Misdemeanors if you remove Woody’s unhappy marriage to whatsername plus the affair with Mia Farrow plus Martin Landau‘s affair-and-murder plot. Like Stiller’s character, Allen also played a less-than-successful, career-frustrated documentarian who’s been working for too long on a doc that leans heavily on interview footage of a respected elderly egghead figure (Peter Yarrow in Baumbach’s film, psychologist Martin Bergmann in Allen’s). Stiller resents the younger, less ethically constrained, destined-for-success Driver while Allen resented his wife’s glib, obnoxious, more successful older brother, played by Alan Alda. And both films end with Stiller and Allen’s character resigned and glumly acknowledging that the world doesn’t care about their ethical concerns about Driver or Alda, and is more than ready to cut them a break while it has little respect or affection for 40ish under-achievers.
Chris Rock‘s Top Five, which I also saw earlier today, is similarly influenced by Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (’79), at least in terms of the broad strokes. But I can’t get into it because Bill Pohlad‘s Love and Mercy starts at 2 pm and it’s 1:38 pm. I can at least say it’s Rock’s most engaging self-directed film ever, and one that comes closest to reflecting his persona or personality as well as his own life. It’s not strictly autobiographical but it’s apparently close enough.