Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ben Stiller Does Baumbach Again


Ben Stiller Superb in “While We’re Young”

By Skip Sheffield

Palm Beach International Film Festival concluded its 20th season last week with the prickly, wistful romantic comedy “While We’re Young.”
Now “While We’re Young” has opened nationwide. If you like Ben Stiller, this movie is a must-see, for it is some of Stiller’s best work to date.
It is also writer/director Noah Baumbach’s best movie since “The Squid and the Whale” in 2005.
You know a movie is shooting high when it quotes Goethe in the opening titles. Ben Stiller is Josh Strebnick, a 44-year-old Manhattan documentary filmmaker who is stuck, physically and psychologically. After a promising debut, he has been at work for ten years for a follow-up he just can’t seem to complete.
His wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) has been more than patient, but she is at the end of her tether. The couple hasn’t been out of New York for eight years, when they vacationed in Rome. Josh is too proud to accept help or advice from Cornelia’s father Leslie, played in a welcome turn by Charles Grodin.
One day seemingly by chance Josh and Cornelia encounter Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried). Coincidentally goofy but endearing Jamie, 25, is an aspiring documentary filmmaker who loved Josh’s first film and quotes from it. Darby makes ice cream and seems content to be in Jamie’s shadow. Jamie and Darby seem to live and absolutely free and unfettered life. Soon Josh and Cornelia are drawn into their world of hipster twentysomethings. Jamie films everything with a tiny video camera.
Josh and Cornelia feel flattered by the attentions of the young couple. They even cross over the line with stolen kisses.
As with “Greenberg,” Stiller’s previous collaboration with Baumbach, Stiller plays an annoying, self-centered yet decent, vulnerable character we learn to sympathize with. Josh feels he has squandered his youth, and he feels envious of the young and vital Jamie. Yet Jamie is not all he claims to be. Josh learns to his chagrin one is never too old to learn a new lesson in human nature.

“While We’re Young” resonates with those who no longer are. Maybe that’s why I related to this film so much. Maybe you will too.

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