By Don Simpson | April 9, 2015
Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Naomi Watts, Ben Stiller, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Maria Dizzia, Adam Horovitz, Matthew Maher, Peter Yarrow, Bonnie Kaufman, Hector Otero, Deborah Eisenberg, Dree Hemingway, Matthew Shear, Quincy Tyler Bernstine
Within the opening title cards, writer-director Noah Baumbach allows quotes from Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder (1892) to cement his own sardonic thoughts on the generational divide, while simultaneously providing proof of the sheer timelessness of his oh-so-jaded sentiments. The message may seem a bit muddled at first, as Baumbach’s While We’re Young begins by idealizing the millennial hipster sect as the evolutionary successors to Generation X.
From Josh’s (Ben Stiller) fortysomething perspective, the unbridled freedom and happiness of Josh’s newly acquired twentysomething friends, Darby (Amanda Seyfried) and Jamie (Adam Driver), provides them with unabashed creativity. There are seemingly no limits to what Darby and Jamie can achieve or make, co-opting relics from bygone eras (vinyl albums, VHS tapes) or repurposing items into their own unique creations. Though surrounded by the urban jungle of New York City, they abide by a hippie-like simplicity and earthliness; they purport to be against modern technology, adverse to using Google or Facebook.
But then Baumbach takes the millennial brats by the scruff, revealing their evil underbelly. Suddenly, the idealized demographic is revealed to represent an endless series of contradictions. Their perfection mutates into a monstrous embodiment of immoral behavior. With no appreciation for copyright ownership or the cinematic Truth, the millennials — at least from Baumbach’s perspective — are liars, cheaters and sneaks; they are a generation of cultural reappropriations, ungraciously borrowing from the past and present without remorse (or acknowledgment). Gone is the moralistic documentarian era of cinéma vérité — represented by Josh and his father-in-law (Charles Grodin) — and enter the generation of the unsympathetic entertainment and the subsequent blurring of reality.
The greatest fault of Baumbach’s film, however, is in its (embarrassingly) misogynistic representation of women. The men of While We’re Young achieve fame and notoriety the respectable way — via documentary filmmaking, of course. As far as Baumbach is concerned, the role of women is to make ice cream or babies, or provide unrecognized support for male documentary filmmakers. Baumbach’s male actors want to be famous, to achieve greatness; while the women are defined solely by their familial relationships. There is absolutely no doubt that Baumbach could have used some personal insight from his girlfriend/muse Greta Gerwig on this screenplay.