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While We're Young


Stars: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, Adam Horowitz, Ryan Serhart, Dree Hemingway, Brady Corbet, Maria Dizzia, Peter Yarrow

Director: Noah Baumbach

Noah Baumbach’s hilarious one-of-a-kind comedy proves to the hilt that Ben Stiller is a great deal cleverer – and funnier – actor than his undoubtedly amusing appearances in the Night at the Museum movies might indicate.

Here he demonstrates an unexpected comic subtlety in creating the character of a middle-aged childless New York filmmaker still labouring after several years to complete a less-than-riveting (Baumbach wittily lets us see sequence from the unfinished film) political documentary. It doesn’t help Stiller’s ego any that his wife Naomi Watts' father Charles Grodin with whom he has a less than smooth relationship, is a legendary and hailed documentary filmmaker.

Everything changes for hyper-neurotic Stiller when hippy-to-an-extreme Adam Driver, one of his pupils he teaches in his film course, praises him and his work to the hilt. This unexpected and extremely welcome catalyst lures Stiller and Watts into friendship with twentysomething Driver and his equally hippy girlfriend Amanda Seyfried with escalating comic consequences…

Baumbach has said he wrote the film with Stiller (with whom he had previously made Greenberg) and Stiller rewards him with a perfect characterisation that makes his character’s neuroses and his on the surface unlikely friendship with much younger Driver and Seyfried all too convincing, even when he and Watts end up deliberately vomiting into bowls at a daft but happily convincing hippy party.

Baumbach makes telling use of his New York locations to amplify the clever blend of comedy and (occasional but appropriate) drama to create an ambience in which his credibly written and played characters can perform with increasing effect.

The performances are all exactly what are required with Grodin making a welcome reappearance and stealing the show at a laughter-inducing award ceremony. There is a stream of splendid jokes, the majority arising out of situations rather than being planted for instant effect, that, along with on-target scripting, direction and acting, transform While We're Young into a pleasure that recalls Woody Allen at his long-ago best – but even better.

If you’re looking for a sharp, hugely enjoyable comedy replete with wit, acid characterisation and an accurate dissection of inevitable middle-age neuroses and their comic and dramatic consequences, then look no further.

Alan Frank

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Icon. Colour.
97 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 06 Apr 2015