WHILE WE’RE YOUNG – Review by Susan Granger

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I suspect the extravagant praise lavished on Noah Baumbach’s films (“Frances Ha,” “Greenberg”) comes from those who can relate to the misery of snarky, neurotic New Yorkers. This story begins pretentiously with quotations from Henrik Ibsen’s “The Master Builder.” Immediately, it becomes obvious that forty-somethings Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) regret that the fizz has gone out of their marriage. Most of their friends have become child-centric – and they obviously haven’t. Read on…

When he isn’t teaching filmmaking to a continuing-education class, Josh has been working on a socio-political documentary for the past 10 years. Cornelia makes almond/avocado-flavored ice cream when she isn’t producing films with her famous documentarian father (Charles Grodin).

One night, after twenty-something Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) fawn over Josh’s lecture, he invites them to join him and Cornelia for dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant.

One encounter leads to another. As the self-involved older couple – Generation X’ers – become more and more infatuated with these insufferably energetic, Brooklyn hipsters, they feel as if they’re re-capturing their youth through the Millenials.

Not surprisingly, Jamie is an aspiring documentarian whose integrity and authenticity is immediately questionable; his obnoxious behavior reveals his relentlessly calculating penchant for exploitation.

Perhaps Woody Allen could have made their anxiety in parallel situations funny, but Noah Baumbach’s bantering goes off on strange tangents. After a predictably disastrous weekend visit to a commune with a whacked-out guru, there’s even a serious detour into the ethics of documentary filmmaking.

What does work is Baumbach’s casting: the talented ensemble is far better than the superficial material they’re working with. Ben Stiller nails frantic, middle-aged frustration, while Naomi Watts is relentlessly supportive. Adam Driver epitomizes sleazy selfishness – until Amanda Seyfried eventually catches on.

In his few scenes, Charles Grodin stoically evokes renowned filmmakers like Albert Maysles and/or Frederick Wiseman; his is the one character that’s totally authentic.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “While We’re Young” is a dreary, doleful 4, an irrelevant waste of time.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.