I’ve long suspected that there’s more to Ben Stiller’s game than is often apparent or he is ever called upon to reveal, but here in this, Noah Baumbach’s follow up to his quirky predecessor, Frances Ha, a more mature and diverse Stiller performance is in evidence.
Yes, it’s still a comic turn of an occasionally slapstick nature and yes, Stiller still plays his stock role as the hard done by fool that life delights in bashing down and perhaps it’s down to the witty, observational script, but this comes across as one of the most diverse and accomplished performances of Stiller’s career to date.
While We’re Young is a familiar tale of middle age gone wrong. Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) play a childless, forty-something couple, tired of the baby obsessed, preachy circle of strangers that their close friends seem to have now morphed into.
A chance encounter with twenty-somethings Jamie (the Keanu Reeves-alike Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a couple whose infectious ‘live in the moment’ attitude to everything suddenly seems incredibly appealing, convinces Josh and his wife to defy their years and dabble once again in their seemingly long lost youth.
Predictably, toe curling Tom-foolery ensues, lessons are learnt and in that way, While We’re Young is a fairly formulaic offering, but in director Baumbach’s capable hands there’s a refreshing depth to the characters and the film benefits enormously from this, not to mention a subtle handling of the humour.
This could all very easily have descended into a succession of tired and predictable set pieces, shoe horned into a production house’s template, and whilst admittedly, While We’re Young ultimately arrives at the same sort of preordained destination we might have expected from the aforementioned template, this piece has a real feel of natural development to it and crucially, doesn’t come across as just another Ben Stiller comedy vehicle.
Yes, this is indeed a surprisingly pleasing offering and one in which Stiller proves that there are more strings to his bow than perhaps we give him credit for. Time will tell whether he attempts to head full on down the Tom Hanks transformational road to ‘serious acting’ in ‘serious films’ but this is certainly a small step in that direction.
Another very watchable and likeable Noah Baumbach effort.