When does our inner combustion engine run out of steam? Some call it getting older; others growing up. You only really know when you are deep in it, and I think it happens younger in the Philippines because people marry and have kids younger. You used to have a lot of hobbies and interests. You had no problem going clubbing Friday night followed by a Saturday of BMXing in the mountains before having more drinks later in the night. You meet a wonderful boy or girl, and staying in becomes more exciting than going out. People slowly stop inviting you to nights out because they know you will usually say no, and slowly life becomes more sedate. Then you ask yourself, “What happened to my exciting life?” This might be your life, but it is also the situation in Noah Baumbach’s comedy While We’re Young.
Middle-Aged Couple Find New Life
When I say this is a comedy, I mean more in the Woody Allen style than the Adam Sandler. Middle aged couple Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are in a predicament; they are finding time with their own friends a little unrelatable. They are THE childless couple, you see, and as their friends take them to kiddie music parties, they don’t really know how to enjoy this. Enter Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), hipster millennials interested in Josh’s film work. As a professional mentoring takes place between Jamie and Josh, a kind of cultural mentoring of the older couple by the younger one also occurs. Josh and Cornelia are seduced by a hipsterdom of faux authenticity, as beautiful young people in bad clothes skip around New York, constructing bedstands out of ciabatta and creating sorbet from freshly squeezed chinchilla milk. But of course, like any budding romance, even between couples, bromances and womances (apparently that is what you call infatuated friendships between women) reality kicks in as the organic almond milk starts to turn sour.
It is nice to get a quiet film that reflects a little bit of what real life is like. In the midst of summer blockbusters, something a little observational that goes into tangents about mundaneness of everyday life and pokes fun at things that we do all the time, like Facebook and the use of cellphones, is a welcome relief. This is a gentle comedy, which does not hold back in its skewering of modern life. Though the hipsters get it bad (as they always do, like they care), a lot of critical humour is aimed squarely at Generation X as well. I come in the generation that straddles between Gen X and the millennials, and it is interesting to watch how one group finds the other so baffling. The common complaint about young people is that they yearn for authenticity because in fact they never have it. Their “lives” are a series of ADHD-edited vignettes packaged for YouTube; everything is a performance. Personally, I question if this kind of “living” is any worse than that of the Prozac Nation whiners who were obsessed with their own feelings and depth and defined themselves by Nirvana, Radiohead and Reality Bites.
The Dad from Beethoven Steals the Film
Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts are doing the seemingly easy act of playing themselves. Adam Driver brings his “most annoying guy on television” schtick over from Girls onto the big screen (he is actually perfectly cast). My favourite screen presence is Charles Grodin, who plays the babyboomer father of Cornelia. I don’t think I have seen him in anything since Beethoven, and his shock of white hair is actually shocking. Nevertheless, he injects his curmudgeonly charm into a movie that needed the breadth of his perspective as the generation that the GenXers can’t live up to and the millennials call “grandpa”.
Feed Off This
What happens when the fuel runs out? Vampirism. Either you leech your drive and meaning from your kids, who become the focus of your life and for whom every minute is seemingly lived, or you cling on to the nightlife and fun times of youth by making friends and going out with boys and girls who seem to grow younger and younger. Perhaps we are all vampires, sucking the lifeblood and energy and inspiration from those younger than us, while they in return survive on our money, knowledge, and sincerity. While We’re Young, if you are older, may make you afraid of young people, or it may annoy you as a young person because it is an unfair portrayal of a younger generation by an older generation that does not get it. All I would say is just have a laugh with it. And if it inspires a thought or two about depth or authenticity, then… well… cool.
While We’re Young is showing in Ayala Centre Cebu cinemas this weekend April 17- 19, 2015.