When you're young, to be old -- even just the 44 kind of old -- is unimaginable. There's no single moment of passing to the other side; the only thing that's real is the bewilderment of realizing that you've somehow squeezed through to it.
That bewilderment is the guiding force of Noah Baumbach's fearless half-a-comedy While We're Young, an unsparing consideration of what makes the young different from the not-so-young. Ben Stiller plays a onetime documentary filmmaker who's hit his forties and stalled out on the masterpiece he's been painstakingly crafting for years. He gets a jolt when he meets young aspiring filmmaker Jamie (Adam Driver) and his artisanal-ice-cream-maker wife, Darby (Amanda Seyfried), both about twenty years his junior. Josh is inspired by their energy, their casual generosity, their drive to "make stuff," and while his wife, Cornelia (Naomi Watts), isn't sold at first, eventually she, too, falls prey to the couple’s charms. But it turns out that Jamie is a climber of the worst sort and, tragically for Josh, perhaps one with actual talent.
Baumbach's eighth feature isn't just sharp, it's serrated — its jokes, and there are lots of them, come at you with rows and rows of tiny teeth. Even if Baumbach betrays annoyance with the sense of entitlement and soufflé-high overconfidence of millennials, in the end he comes down hardest on beleaguered Josh, his semi-hero. He's the one we most frequently laugh at, but also the one we feel the most for. Youth may be wasted on the young, but midlife ennui is unbecoming, and While We're Young refuses to give in to middle-aged self-pity.