A stripped down instrumental cover of David Bowie’s “Golden Years” opens Noah Baumbach’s newest film, “While We’re Young.” Usually the “golden years” are in reference to those years after retirement. When Bowie’s hit came out in 1975, the idea of kicking back, relaxing and not doing a whole lot seemed ideal. Nowadays, I’m not sure if that is the case. Millennials focus on living in the “now,” while older folks might look back at their younger days as some of the better years of their lives. Aging is a tough question to examine, but Baumbach gives it a try with his latest film.
Ben Stiller’s Josh is a documentarian who has been stuck on the same project for eight years. His wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) is the daughter of a successful documentarian and a producer in her own right. Together they’re a cool, older, childless married couple that feels a little detached from their friends (played by Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz), who just had a baby of their own. A chance encounter with a young married couple, Jamie and Darby (played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried, respectively), puts Josh and Cornelia on a course that upturns their marriage and careers.
Jamie and Darby embody the Brooklyn-dwelling hipster persona to a T. They live in a spacious warehouse loft with stacks of VHS tapes piled up next to typewriters mounted on walls. Darby’s trade is making homemade ice cream. It’s no surprise that Driver can pull this role off so easily as it’s similar to the one he plays on HBO’s “Girls.”
You would think that juxtaposing the two couples lifestyles, passions, drives and motivations against each other would have been enough for a Baumbach film. After all, “Frances Ha” was a reflection of one young woman’s journey to finding herself, so it wouldn’t have been surprising if “While We’re Young” fell into the same vein. But somewhere around the halfway point, the film makes a neat little pivot to become a movie about the entitlement of young people and the integrity of documentaries. It was interesting to see Baumbach take such a definitive direction and not at all disappointing.
“While We’re Young” is a solid and enjoyable film. The score by James Murphy, formerly of LCD Soundsystem, is delightful and pitch perfect. Baumbach ruminates on what it means to be young and old while not offering any definite answers. In the end there is probably not such a large gap between being a younger adult or an older one. The moral of the story is to make the most out of whatever life gives you, and then you’ll be experiencing your “golden years.” Just remember what Bowie once sang, “Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere.”