Noah Baumbach, one of the great voices of the disaffected New York City intelligentsia, makes perhaps his most lighthearted and mainstream movie in "While We're Young," a comedy about a crisis point in the marriage of childless forty-something Brooklynites.
Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts stars as the couple, Josh and Cornelia, so the movie doesn't want for charm. But as the pair grows close to twenty-something free spirit hipsters Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), the picture starts to seem less like a fresh vision from the sharp mind behind "The Squid and the Whale" and more like another tread over familiar, chic Brooklyn territory.
There's a lot that's refreshing about the movie: Hollywood is so desperately afraid of pictures about actual adults that it's nice to see a writer-director engaging with specifically forty-something concerns in a broad and commercial fashion. Stiller is so much more than his archetypal comic persona and it's always rewarding to see him get the chance to be more subtle.
Baumbach has a solid grasp of what it feels like to hit one of those transition points in life, where it seems as if you simply don't fit in. A scene in which Cornelia accompanies a mother friend to an infant music class plays like heightened horror and poignant comedy all at once, as the filmmaker trains his camera on Watts' horrified face.
The filmmaker has a far more tenuous sense of the hip milieu occupied by Jamie and Darby, which skids right toward "indie" cliches. The characters are at once obsessively retro and painstakingly engaged in new age nonsense, making homemade ice cream and pounding away on a typewriter, facilitating a story that ultimately goes nowhere while seeming to have wandered into this movie from the "Girls" set.