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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: While We're Young

June 29th, 2015

While We're Young - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Video on Demand

While We're Young

While We're Young is the latest film from writer / director Noah Baumbach. He has a great streak going by his Tomatometer Scores and this film earned 84% positive reviews. However, the audience score is only 58% positive. That dichotomy is a bit troubling. Is this film designed to wow critics, but will leave the average moviegoer cold?

The Movie

The movie begins with intertitles with lines from a scene from The Master Builder, a play by Henrik Ibsen. The play is about an older architect, who fears the youth of today, and his wife, who encourages him to embrace the youth of today. In the play, this turns out to be a mistake.

The first character we see is Cornelia and shortly after that we meet her husband, Josh. They are trying to tell a baby a bedtime story, but it isn't working out so well. Fortunately, it's not their baby. Its Marina and Fletcher's baby. (He even got a tattoo of the sonogram to celebrate.) Marina and Fletcher try to convince Cornelia and Josh to have kids telling them how wonderful the experience is. Cornelia and Josh try to say they are happy without kids, but the reality is, they tried, but both times Cornelia had a miscarriage. Now they are no longer trying. They try to tell themselves they are happy, but their marriage is clearly in a rut. They haven't been on a vacation for nearly a decade. They tried to get to Mexico last year, but Josh was working on his documentary, which he still hasn't finished.

In fact, Josh has been working on his documentary for a decade, as we learn when he talks with his editor. We also learn he needs grant money and won't be able to complete the film without it, or even pay his editor for the work he has already done. In the meantime, Josh is giving a talk about documentaries and his belief that they should be more personal. After the talk, he meets Jamie and Darby. Jamie is a fan of Josh's work having seen his previous film, The Power Elite. Jamie invites Josh to dinner, but Josh has to decline, because he already has plans to have dinner with Cornelia at a Chinese food place nearby. As it happens, that is where Jamie and Darby are also having dinner, so the four of them eat together. During dinner, Jamie asks who inspires Josh and Josh mentions Leslie Breitbart, whom he interned for. He is also Cornelia's father and that's how the two met. Since then, the two have had a falling out. After the dinner, Jamie asks Josh to come over to their place to look at the documentary Jamie has been think about making.

At first, Cornelia and Josh are excited to have younger friends in their lives and this seems to invigorate their own relationship. They even decide to help Jamie with his documentary. However, if you know anything about The Master Builder, it is pretty easy to guess this isn't entirely a wise decision. That said, the particular bumps along the way and the conclusion are all in spoiler territory.

When critics and moviegoers are as split as they are with While We're Young, this usually means one of two things. Firstly, it could mean the film is aimed at critics and unless you've taken a course of film theory, you will feel left out. Secondly, it could mean there was a problem with advertising. Drive, for example, was advertised as an action film / car chase movie, but in reality, it was a drama more than anything else. The same is true here. This is a comedy, but it is not comedy-comedy. It is a dramedy with a much drier wit than the average Ben Stiller has. I don't think the comedy in this film will have a lot in common with the humor in Zoolander 2, which is Ben Stiller's next movie. If you go in expecting that type of humor, you will be disappointed. On the other hand, if you go into the movie expecting a drama like Noah Baumbach tends to make, but with some biting satire at the heart of it, then you should enjoy While We're Young.

Although I should point out that the satire is arguably aimed at a too easy target. There is a generational conflict in this film and Ben Stiller and Noah Baumbach are close to the same age, so it isn't really a spoiler who comes out looking better at the end.

The Extras

The extras are divided between Featurettes and Behind-the-Scenes. Featurettes has four parts with a play all option. When I clicked that, the running time was exactly seven and a half minutes. At first I hoped this was for just the first part, but nope. Combined they are just seven and a half minutes long. The two Behind-the-Scenes are even shorter at a combined two and a half minutes. Ten minutes of extras is unacceptably short.

The technical presentation is mixed. The video doesn't look great, but that was an aesthetic choice. The film is shot digitally, but intentionally made to look old with muted colors and faded details. You can't blame the transfer for this, because it was intentionally done; however, you also can't give the film high grades for its video quality as a result. The audio is significantly better, as the audio is always clear. That said, it is a dialogue-driven film, so don't expect much out of the surround sound speakers.

The Blu-ray costs $17, which is $4 or 31% more than the DVD. This is a better deal than most similar releases.

The Verdict

While We're Young is a dramedy with some stinging satire that is perhaps aimed at too obvious a target. It is certainly worth checking out; however, the DVD or Blu-ray do not have a lot of extras, so grabbing it on Video on Demand might be the better option for many.

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Filed under: Video Review, While We're Young, Noah Baumbach, Charles Grodin, Amanda Seyfried, Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Horowitz, Maria Dizzia, Adam Driver