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Shortly after his new film opens, Stiller’s documentary-filmmaker character Josh and wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) find their lives energized when they meet an exciting young couple, Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). The older pair covets the free-spirited artisanal ways of their new friends, seeing them as an antidote to the child-centric world of their contemporaries.
Soon, though, the veil is lifted, and what follows is an older generation's more complicated view on younger people -- by turns energized, jealous, fascinated and resentful -- and the techno-fueled lives they lead.
“Something is going on in the movie that’s ‘wait, we're old, the old people,” Stiller told the audience after the screening. “With social media and everything going on,” he added of his own life, “it does make me feel outside of what's going on a lot of the time.”
Joking that “middle age” was his inspiration, Baumbach said the film sprung from an idea he had about couples that he couldn’t quite crack, until he had a small epiphany. “Thinking about people of different generations,” Baumbach said, “motivated me to write it.” (Click over to this piece for my colleague Betsy Sharkey’s take on the director’s own evolution.)
“While We’re Young,” which is seeking U.S. distribution, is rife with the kind of adjustments, psychological and otherwise, members of an older generation must make when they realize a baton has been passed. "It touches on so many things I identify with," Stiller said. That’s true not just with gizmos themselves but further-reaching areas such as storytelling ("If everybody records everything, then what's a documentary anymore," Josh asks) and the appropriation of culture. “I knew this song when it was just bad," Stiller’s character says when Driver uses Kenny Loggins' “Danger Zone” as psyche-up music.
But “While We’re Young” is hardly a cri de coeur, just as it’s also not an easy piece of fogeyish fetishization. Josh and Cornelia actually have a reasonably good relationship in their own right, and not all is rosy in the Millennial world.