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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘While We’re Young’ honest on youth, aging


    Scott Rudin Productions

    It’s never too early to start feeling old. “While We’re Young,” the latest dramedy from indie darling writer-director Noah Baumbach, explores the fascination and reality of youth. The film juxtaposes two couples: middle-aged Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), and 20-somethings Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried).

    The film delves into the expectations and reality of what it means to be young and to come to grips with the absence of youth. Josh, an established documentary filmmaker, meets his 20-year-younger reflection, Jamie, while teaching a film class, and the two couples become fast friends.

    Josh and Cornelia initially find themselves rejuvenated by Jamie and Darby’s perpetual hopefulness. Jamie and Darby embody the hipster, grassroots lifestyle popular among the young folks of today, and their effect is so strong that at one point, Josh proclaims, “For an hour or two there, he had me convinced I could build myself a new desk!”

    This resurgence of youth finds Cornelia and Josh at just the right time. Jamie and Darby arrive at a point when Josh claims he’s only capable of two emotions: wistful and disdain.

    For a short period of time, Jamie and Darby remove the disdain from Josh’s life. Their youth outshine the issues facing Josh: his decade-long unfinished documentary, the questions on parenthood that arise from a friend’s newborn and a damaged relationship with his more accomplished father-in-law.

    Josh and Cornelia are fully entranced by youth. For a time, gone are the lack of responsibility, fear and pragmatism weighing down their 40s. Jamie and Darby are still connected to the vibrant heartbeat of life, and would rather dance than live a quiet, domesticated life.

    Where “While We’re Young” shines is the reversal of this romanticized look at youth. Slowly but surely, Jamie and Josh’s relationship begins to crack. As Jamie’s fledgling documentary begins to gain momentum, Josh no longer finds himself caught up in the wistful protégé-mentor relationship he enjoyed. Jamie transitions from a reflection of Josh and the exuberance of youth to a suspicious manipulator of the people around him.

    As Jamie, Driver plays the one guy who checks all the right boxes but still makes your skin crawl. Jamie twists and turns the truth to fit his end goals, all the while believing his subjective version of reality is what the people want. Josh’s suspicions of a grand conspiracy weaved together by Jamie prove to be true.

    In the end, our expectations fail us. Josh’s friend, a brand new father, explains how having a baby changed him for the better but not as much as he expected it would. Similarly, Josh had fallen in love with the romanticized idea of youth that Jamie fed him, which, too, ultimately proved fallow.

    “While We’re Young” is the disguised journey of Josh becoming an old man. To be young is to believe the world still revolves around oneself. Josh spends the majority of the film seeking a way to revive this belief he has held so long. Even in the climax, as he attempts to expose Jamie as a fraud, he does so in order to vindicate himself.

    “While We’re Young” explores one man’s case of confirmation bias over the question, “Am I still young?”

    The answer is ‘no.’ Life passes everyone by. Aging is like the arthritis Josh discovers he has after crashing his bike trying to keep up with Jamie: an inevitable decay of youth.

    In the end, Josh comes to grips with this. He confesses to Cornelia that he still feels like a child imitating an adult, but in reality, he is an old man.

    The final scene proves Josh’s growth as he and Cornelia sit in an airport on the way to adopt a child in Haiti. They have given up youth and the idea that the world can still revolve around them; they are becoming parents as a means to live a life centered on another.

    Sitting in the airport and reading an article on the success of Jamie as a filmmaker, Josh says, “He’s not evil; he’s just young.”

    The couple looks up to see a child imitating an adult by babbling on an iPhone. We are all that child, and we are all learning to act a littler older, a little more selfless.

    Rating: 7.5/10


    Follow Alex Furrier on Twitter.

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