Reviewed By: Finnian Williamson
Image Credit: Txt Movie Club
Hipsters. Either you found this website because you are one, want to be one or felt obliged to click on a link. Watching this film surrounded by a crowd of striking hipsters and wanna-be hipsters (which this reviewer counts himself as #noshame) gave this film a more sophisticated atmosphere. Or maybe pretentious. A quick walk down Leederville or drink at Northbridge’s The Bird will either make you feel completely out of your depth in vintage fashion or nowhere cool enough for the wanna-be Tame Impala band you’re going to suffer.
There’s been plenty of films featuring characters of the hipster mold – Juno, Submarine, any Wes Anderson film – but While We’re Young is the first film I’ve seen to reflect the absurdity of the hipster label. Set up like a usual Manhattan-based romantic comedy, documentary-maker Josh (Ben Stiller) and producer wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are the cliché of a middle aged couple. Any excitement in their relationship has disappeared and the fact that they’re childless has put a damper on their friendships with now new parents.
Thankfully, they bump into two-lovable and hipsterific twenty-somethings. Jamie (played by the impossibly cool Adam Driver of Girls) and Darby (played by the impossibly prolific Amanda Seyfried of Mean Girls) are the hipsters that hipsters aspire to be (though they’d never admit it). Ironically, it’s this younger couple who are watching 80’s movies on their crappy TV, reading classic English literature and playing board games with friends – whilst its oldies who can’t find anything good on Netflix and are scrolling through their iPads at the dinner table. Hanging out with the cool kids gives ol’ Stiller and Watts the relationship they’ve been missing – suddenly they too want to do everything, make everything and wear fedoras. But if a hipster ever allowed you to borrow their entire vinyl record collection, you know it’s too good to be true.
Director Noah Baumbach – who’s become something of a ‘mumblecore’ favourite with The Squid and The Whale and Frances Ha (‘mumblecore’ being a film code word for ‘American and indie’) – probably envisioned an incredibly witty and intellectual take on generational differences, in all their highs and lows. And he gets some of that vision across. The characters are fresh and interesting with Driver as the perfect choice for the handsome but eccentric counterpart to Stiller’s awkward and frustrated lead.
But when Driver’s character is hinted to have not the nicest of intentions, Baumbach loses focus and the structure falls into a confusing heap. The comedy is handled poorly and almost begs for laughs, with a lengthy scene set in a hippie retreat coming off as just desperate. The film’s climax revolves around a debate over the ethical standards of modern documentary filmmaking – to a film student like myself it’s interesting, but to many others probably pretentious.
The film does end, however, in probably the cutest but scary way possible. #NoSpoiler, but it perfectly sums up Baumbach’s idea of who we are, no matter how experienced and wise, living our lives like ‘a child imitating an adult’. And perhaps that quote perfectly summarizes While We’re Young’s problems too. Baumbach has some intriguing comments to make but by making a film that’s somewhat his most ‘mainstream’ and accessible film so far, it’s still your classic mumblecore film underneath, and comes off as somewhat tangled.
While We’re Young starts screening at Luna Cinemas as of April 16. Almost two weeks away, so in the meantime make the most of the Luna Outdoor viewings. Leederville and Camelot Outdoor Cinemas run till April the 18th and finish of with the sold-out and infamous The Room screening at Luna Leederville. With pizza and some sweet jazz music, there’s no better way to watch the film than under the stars. Even better than staying at home with Netflix. Truly.