Diablo Cody’s screenplay follow-up to “Juno” is a wrongly-maligned cult film with more nuance beneath the surface than anyone gave it credit for.
Though well-acted and capably directed, the heavy-handedness of Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young makes it one of his lesser efforts. Baumbach tries to anticipate the impending clash between Gen X bitterness and Millennial entitlement, but the execution feels uncomfortably Braff-ish. You’ll probably leave the theater smiling, but we’ve come to expect something a little more substantial from an observant filmmaker like Baumbach.
Noah Baumbach’s last few films have been about protagonists doing nothing, or at least trying to give the illusion of doing something. Ben Stiller’s Greenberg said as much, even while slowly building a doghouse for his brother. Greta Gerwig’s Frances Halloway was a professional dancer who didn’t dance to the point that it made her “undateable”. Baumbach’s latest film While We’re Young is about yet another form of stagnation: middle age. A married couple of forty-somethings encounter a married couple of twenty-somethings, and that illusion that they’re doing everything they’re meant to be doing at this age quickly fades away.
At age 45, it feels like writer-director Noah Baumbach is getting soft. Best known for his caustic tragicomedies like Kicking and Screaming, The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg, and Margot at the Wedding, he took a turn in tone for his 2012 feature Frances Ha, which starred and was co-written by Greta Gerwig. So, though the warmth of that film might surprise someone familiar with his work, that it’s a collaboration with Gerwig explains at least part of that tone. While We’re Young, though, Baumbach’s newest film which premiered at TIFF this year and made a surprise appearance at the New York Film Festival, manages to carry that affection. It’s hard to top Frances Ha, but his newest is pleasant and impressive all the same.
Once again, Noah Baumbach’s taken to contemporary twenty-something culture. With Frances Ha he painted an apt portrait of a meandering young woman struggling to identify herself in a sea of expectation and pressure. Now, the gloves are off, as Baumbach zeroes in on the terrible and vaguely infectious character traits of the Me Generation. Narcissism and pretention are the order of the day, and we’re not talking about flippantly calling your ‘frenemy’ a narcissist: actual, clinical narcissism.
Seth MacFarlane has a dirty mind. He tells dirty jokes in occasionally clever, often crude ways, and without remorse. With Family Guy, he exhibits the full extent of his talents in thirty-minute stints to great effect. On the big screen, however, he may need someone to wrangle him in. While Ted (2012) was incredibly entertaining, it occasionally found itself slowing to a crawl. MacFarlane’s latest, A Million Ways to Die in the West, finds itself suffering a similar fate. Though highly entertaining, the film runs too long, leaves many of its characters in the lurch, and doesn’t give nearly enough screen time to its talented roster of actors.
We are living in a golden age of animation, yet so many people working at Hollywood’s studio-funded animation companies are content working in the realm of the familiar. Too frequently, new mainstream animated films are like a big bowl of soup, with countless flavors that you’ve tasted before tweaked only slightly to not be total carbon copies of something bigger and often better.