Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as weary couple in search of their youth and spark again through adventurous hipster activities
After his 2013 adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the Zoolander Ben Stiller follows up by starring in this comedy-drama that sort of have similar elements to Walter Mitty but with way more substance and could've been its spiritual sequel. Produced, written and directed by Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, The Squid and the Whale), the story of While We're Young starts off as though it's about being young again and exploring the lifestyle of the pre-internet era when the film actually has a surprising but intelligently foreshadowed twist which confronts current issues of the new modern age society today, particularly but non-exclusively to generation gap and content integrity.
Stiller plays Josh Schrebnick, a middle-aged college lecturer and a one-hit wonder documentary filmmaker who's struggling to complete the post-production of his second film for 10 years. His relationship with his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) has been growing poorer and unromantic, to a point that they haven't had sex for a year. Cornelia also had two miscarriages which scare her to ever try to have babies again. They're also beginning to feel left out by their close friends who're now in their parenthood. Just when it seems that they may be hitting midlife crisis, Josh meets Jamie and Darby Massey (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) at his class, who are a pair of hipsters-like couple in their 20s. Jamie and Darby appear to be live the old-skool lifestyle -- they don't use the internet much, likes to build their own stuff and still use vinyl records and VHS. Being fans of Josh's work, they invite him and Cornelia to their cool, fun and adventurous activities, which inspire them feel more alive than they've ever been.
Stiller always have the same two styles of acting but like for this film, it often works as he chooses his roles right. He has a good chemistry with two-time Oscar nominee Naomi Watts (Birdman, The Impossible) as their portrayal of the weary couple is highly believable. The character Josh is the protagonist but Watt's performance as Cornelia is the more powerful one as she's able to provide emotional depth. The casting for role of Jamie is absolutely spot on as Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You, Tracks) has the charm and yet the suspicious face that you'd wish to punch, which is just effortless engaging. Amanda Seyfried (Ted 2, Les Miserable) is gorgeous as ever and although her role here is rather small, her dead-eye offbeat presence is felt.
With Baumbach's brilliant script and indie direction style with tight editing by Jennifer Lame and the strong performances by the actors, it is fair to say that While We're Young is one of the very rare great comedy-dramas in recent years that are genuinely funny (but not in the wise-cracking, joke-by-joke manner), heartfelt, highly relatable, mature, satirical, and it boldly faces the problems they bring up head on with painfully truthful and also consoling answers. The final scene delivers the ultimate point of the film so well that I don't think it could've been done any better.
Malaysia censorship: I watched it at TGV's press screening and nothing seemed to be censored at all. Even the F-bombs weren't muted. Since it's already rated 18, I believe the normal public screenings would be uncensored as well.
Second opinion: My girlfriend said she can't remember much of the movie but felt heartbroken, in a good way, while watching it.
Verdict: Highly likely the best comedy-drama released in 2015 thus far. Please don't watch the trailers as they contain heavy spoilers.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director-writer: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried
Malaysia Release Date: 2 July 2015
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: Scott Rudin Productions
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