Cornelia (Naomi Watts) uncomfortably attends a baby class in While We’re Young Photo by Jon Pack, Courtesy of A24Cornelia and Josh are an upper-middle-class, fairly successful New York married couple in their forties (he’s a filmmaker/teacher, she’s a producer and daughter of a famous filmmaker) who are leading a fine, quiet existence that gets less so when their good friends become parents and Cornelia and Josh, who aren’t, meet and start to hang out with some 20-something married hipster couple, played by Amanda Seyfried and Girls’ Adam Driver. Interesting enough plot, right? There’s much more to it than that, but that was enough to get me to rent it, plus, the fact that I’ll watch anything with Driver in it. But what I remember most about the film is how it depicted the 40-something couples’ lives versus the 20-somethings’ lives of Darby, an ice cream maker, and Jamie, an ambitious, aspiring filmmaker. It was night and day. While We’re Young is worthwhile to see: New York City and Adam Driver, of course!, and there are many interesting themes explored, including aging, artistic struggle, childlessness, child “full”-ness, and much more. Here is a quick lowdown on the most notable moments in the film through a simple chart breaking down the character groupings.
Why do you suddenly want to hang out with a couple of 25-year-olds? “There’s something about hanging around them that energizes you,” says Cornelia, when asked why they spend time with “kids” almost half their ages. There’s this portrayal in pop culture that once you hit your 40s, you simply become boring: set in your ways, lacking in spontaneity, predictable, because life is somewhat over in many ways. (Of course, Bowie, Jagger, and my parents didn’t get that memo.) You know that expression “over the hill” never seems to have any positive connotations.
Josh (Ben Stiller) using borrowed rollerblades in While We’re Young Photo by Jon Pack, Courtesy of A24Many “elders” and other parents, including my husband, always told me before I did have a child that life as a parent, likewise, would become filled with early bedtimes, no more after midnight (or even 9 p.m.) escapades, essentially what sounded like a dull life punctuated by crying, tantrums, and definitely great moments of joy. Cornelia and Josh’s friends, Marina and Fletcher (played by Maria Dizzia and Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz!!!! aka Ad-Rock), describe themselves as “the boring couple with the baby.” So becoming a new parent and doing it in your 40s is kind of being doomed to mediocrity. These people obviously didn’t have parents like mine whose social schedule has always been packed with dinner dances, cruises, gambling trips, never-ending reunions, and bedtimes of 3 a.m. and later while in their 60s and 70s. I don’t need 25-year-olds to put my social life to shame; I have senior citizens who I call “Mom” and “Dad” to do that. The message in all this? You’re really only as boring as you want to be. And one person’s “boring” could be another person’s dream life. So what life does Cornelia and Josh choose in the end? You'll have to watch the film to find out.
Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Watts) on hallucinogens in While We’re Young Photo by Jon Pack, Courtesy of A24
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