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While Were Young
While We're Young is the latest film from acclaimed writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and The Whale, Frances Ha). It reunites the filmmaker with star Ben Stiller (who last worked with him on 2010's Greenberg). The film was produced by Noah Baumbach with Scott Rudin (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Social Network) and was distributed by A24 films.
The story of While We're Young focuses on a documentary filmmaker named Josh (Ben Stiller). Josh is trying to finish making a long-in-fruition new documentary film that he has been filming and editing across several years. Josh is married to Cornelia (Naomi Watts) and both have been trying unsuccessfully to have a child together for years. Their marriage is peaceful if uneventful. Friends Marina (Maria Dizzia) and Fletcher (Adam Horovitz, of Beastie Boys fame) are becoming parents while they are starting to feel out of touch.
After giving a college lecture, Josh is approached by a young couple. He meets Jamie (Adam Driver), an aspiring documentary filmmaker and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), who makes ice cream. They show an interest in his past documentary work. Josh and Cornelia soon find themselves spending a lot of time with Jamie and Darby and a lot less time around friends Marina and Fletcher. Over the journey taken during the course of the story, Josh and Cornelia come to learn what it means to them to be young and what it means to become older (while still feeling young).
Many of the core behind-the-scenes crew who worked on While We're Young are collaborators returning to work with Baumbach again. The film reunites him with the great cinematographer Sam Levy, who brought Frances Ha to life with stunning black and white photography. The production also utilizes the editorial chops of Jennifer Lame, who did a near-perfect job with regards to editing Frances Ha.
The cinematography for While We're Young is different from Levy's previous collaboration with Baumbach but majestically so. The use of color is excellent and the style of this film conveys a rather sleek modernism that is an interesting contrast to the nostalgic cinematography approach used for Frances Ha. Lame's editorial work remains excellent. The film is paced perfectly and is also short (with a run-time of 97 minutes).
The film features original score music composed by the acclaimed electronic musician James Murphy (aka LCD Soundsystem), who joins in on the filmmaking fun after having previously collaborated with Baumbach on Greenberg. Costumes are designed by Ann Roth (who did the costumes on Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding and who has also contributed to films like The English Patient, Signs, and The Way Way Back). The production design is by Adam Stockhausen (Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel).
One of the most important elements of a Baumbach film is the way it sounds musically. In every film by Baumbach, the music plays a key role in the style of filmmaking. It helps the filmmaker craft some of his most enjoyable scenes. In addition to the score by James Murphy, the film uses several selections from the great Baroque classical music composer Antonio Vivaldi, including a selection previously used by one of Baumbach's inspirations, Truffaut. There are also great songs included in the film by classic rock musicians like Paul McCartney and David Bowie.
As a writer, Baumbach is absolutely brilliant. It is one of his strongest strengths as an artist. He writes great characters and tells his stories with amazing dialogue. While We're Young actually has some of his best film dialogue to date. The characters of Josh and Cornelia are relatable no matter the age of the viewer. The sharply humorous and witty dialogue exchanges give the film it's decidedly fresh and jubilant vibe.
The observations given on cultural changes between the character's different generations and on the modern-age nostalgia are excellent. There are also funny contrasts between the characters in the film: the young couple listens to music on vinyl and watches movies on VHS while Josh and Cornelia stream movies and listen to CD's. These quirky character-based elements are essential to the style of filmmaking Baumbach utilizes.
The direction by Baumbach is excellent as well and brings the filmmaking together. One of the strengths of films directed by Baumbach is how excellent he is with actors. A lot of the actors who work with him deliver some of their best work while working on his films. Ben Stiller is certainly at the top of his game (as he was in Greenberg). Stiller gives one of his career best performances: it's an amazing, award-worthy performance with dramatic depth and strong comedic timing.
On the same level of skill is Naomi Watts (who continues to be uniformly excellent in everything she does). In While We're Young, Watts gets a rare opportunity to break loose with the comedic scenes. She even gives an epic freestyle hip-hop dance. These moments showcase another great side to Watts that isn't explored as frequently in cinema.
While We're Young is one of Baumbach's smartest, funniest, and most entertaining films to date. The storytelling is first-rate, the filmmaking is exquisite, and the performances are stellar. For a fan of Baumbach, this film is another winning work of art in his great filmography. It may also win the auteur some new fans with the great balance of comedy and drama in this charmingly original effort by one of cinema's most unique voices.
While We're Young arrives on Blu-ray from Lionsgate and A24 films with a stunning MPEG-4 AVC encoded 1080p High Definition presentation in the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The widescreen image is exquisite with great color reproduction, clarity, and detail. The image is sharp, lushly realized, and stunning to behold. Sam Levy's exceptional cinematography is a wondrous thing to behold and it's well reproduced on this quality release.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is quite effective. While the film's sound-stage might seem relatively sparse, dialogue reproduction is excellent and has great clarity. The soundtrack is also well represented and the music score composed by James Murphy is effectively reproduced. The great assortment of classic rock songs and classical music compositions sound beautiful with this lossless music presentation.
Optional English, Spanish, and English SDH subtitles (for the deaf and hard of hearing) are provided.
The disc is light on supplemental features but the included bonuses are nice featurettes for fans of the film and filmmaker. The main featurettes included are broken down into several short segments focused upon The Cast, Writer/Director Noah Baumbach, Charles Grodin, and Generation Tech.
The behind the scenes making-of featurettes focus on two specific scenes from the film: the Ayahuasca Ceremony and the Hip Hop Class.
There is only around 10 minutes of bonus-features included on this release, which is quite far from being in-depth or extensive. Each extra feels like an extended promotional piece and is certainly not going to provide as much making-of material as some fans might want. These supplements are still worth a look.
As per the norm for writer-director Noah Baumbach, the film has a successful blend of comedy and drama. The performances by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts are fantastic. The script is great and with excellent dialogue. While We're Young is another impressive effort by the filmmaker (whose other filmmaking credits include gems Frances Ha, The Squid and The Whale, and Greenberg).
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.
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