Sunday, March 29, 2015

While We're Young (***)

Written and Directed by Noah Baumbach


Noah Baumbach made his career on a certain kind of crankiness - a crankiness no doubt born from his troublesome childhood which was well documented in his not-so-fictional film memoir The Squid and The Whale. That movie helped Baumbach crossover from the young buck filmmaker of Kicking and Screaming (and occasional writing partner of Wes Anderson) into a unique, individual filmmaking voice. But his cynical sarcasm quickly turned to nasty bitterness, and the double-fisted punchout of his next two films, Margot at the Wedding (which is truly unpleasant and unentertaining) and Greenberg (which was saved only by an inspired lead performance from its star, Ben Stiller), left audiences feeling like he was lashing out at an invisible enemy - like life itself was a giant crusade. Anger seemed to be his permanent state. His 2012 film Frances Ha introduced us to a new Baumbach, one who may actually see a sunny side to life, even if he still believes that it's a shit parade. His latest film, While We're Young, re-connects him with Stiller but the result is much more tame, less relentless in its pursuit of winning a nameless argument. Baumbach seems to be finally accepting his adulthood (the formerly "hip" director is now in his mid-forties) and partaking in the mellowness that comes along with it. Despite it all, he still has his punch. He can still write hurtful monologues and take out entire subcultures of people with a single line, but While We're Young is about the acquiescence that the angry young man partakes in to avoid becoming a cranky old man.