In the middle of life

While We’re Young4While We’re YoungEnds tonight, April 23. Cinemark 14. Rated Juan-Carlos Selznick

Rated 4.0

Indie writer-director Noah Baumbach (Greenberg, The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha) makes smart, charming comedy-dramas—part romantic comedy, part laid-back psychodrama, part cross-generational satire. His latest, While We’re Young, spins its own playfully offbeat mixture of those ingredients in a tale about a 40-something married couple, Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), who find themselves drawn into the youthfully energetic orbit of a 20-something married couple, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried).

Josh and Jamie are both documentary filmmakers; the latter aspires to match the former’s early success, while Josh is struggling to maintain a career that once seemed very promising. And Josh has the additional challenge of meeting the severe expectations of his father-in-law (Charles Grodin), who—as it happens—is a revered veteran of documentary filmmaking himself.

At the same time, the childless marriage of Josh and Cornelia is nudged toward a mid-life crisis of its own by way of the newborn child of their 40-something best friends, Fletcher (Adam Horovitz) and Marina (Maria Dizzia). Contrasting married couples, overlapping generation gaps, and artistic ambitions immersed in 21st-century video saturation all get witty and observant treatment in Baumbach’s sharply written comedy of post-modern manners.

Josh and Cornelia’s continuing journey toward full adulthood may be the central thread in all this, but it’s Driver’s character who provides the darkest and most perplexing twists and turns to the various dramas. At times, Baumbach seems close to throwing the whole endeavor off track with that character, and whether the recoveries (Josh’s and the film’s) are sufficient is one of the things the movie leaves us to ponder.