Interesting in it’s portrayal of integrity and reflective in the characters it makes you think about. This may not be a perfect film or an out and out winner, but get through a mild start and there’s a tense, sweet and honest mix of good feelings to be had upon seeing this movie play on.
In the throes of assembling a documentary, Josh (Ben Stiller) meets a pair of younger and freer souls than himself and wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts). As they both spend more time with Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) they see more about their own marriage, age, perspectives in the good and the bad.
Certainly, it can be said, well at least by me, that the first quarter or so of the film through all it’s setting up and the like began to drag. It had a spark that quickly fizzled and for Noah Baumbach’s script that is a sore spot but it redeems itself in the last quarter when a change of tone makes you sit up and pay more attention. Gladly putting the weird centre to one side the thriller-esque pace of discovery seen literally and metaphorically ends the movie on a high note.
The deep and constant themes of truth, authenticity of action, age and the effects of adulthood play key sounds in this film’s songbook. Baumbach uses these well to build on a comedic screenplay but though there is fun moments the story isn’t necessarily funny and I don’t really feel it needed to be. The serious aspects of responsibilities, poignant desires to be young, blossoming resentment and dislike have their humourous lines but all in all they come firing out as a learning cinematic journey of how people can be and who we are.
Amongst the pitfalls and triumphs of Josh and Cornelia’s enlightening path, you get lovely light moments blurred with darker worries of what these mysterious 20 somethings are bringing to the table. I think this film could well make people think about their position, how their younger past once was and what they’re like now, that ultimately gives this film a great power of looking to the future, not just for the characters on screen but for the audience also.
It has to be said that along the way, a level of douchebaggery is pushed to 11, Spinal Tap style. The hipster imagery grates more often than not, though it’s understandable, the transition quality of the plot is pushed into the realm of hip younger oddities like cafes, hats and raman led drug awakenings. There is a good chunk of the film that feels strained through a strange sieve and comes out making you question how to take the movie.
The film deals well the choice to lift from a Henrik Ibsen play and quote it’s passage about opening a door to younger people. Always flicking back to this opening credit, I felt that the movie concerns the fear and yet hopefulness of accepting something new and unknown in a marvellous way. The end featuring a toddler and a mobile further pushes open that door of letting in a new view, this world and the muddling of tech and age is more muddled than ever before and the movie ends on that thought. At least that’s what I took from it.
Ben Stiller steps off the catwalk declaring Zoolander 2 and comes into his own once again, showing he can do serious. The light side of his comedy is still there but in his frustrations of his work and the annoyance he can feel towards Jamie, Stiller proves he’s a great leading man for dramatic pieces too. Naomi Watts doesn’t only bust a funny move in a spirited hip-hop class but brings dramatic weight to a wife that feels lost and trapped in that routine of normality. Adam Driver is possibly the only character to leave you cold, whether intentional or not, I left disliking Jamie, he’s a dick and goes the wrong way to get what he wants. Amanda Seyfried is bubbly and youthful in the role given and bounces back with what could be a boring happy wife mould to see how connotations in the flecks of growing older play to her narrative.
The film is fantastic at discussions of honesty, method and consequence in documentary film-making and in turn it feels nearly as fantastic in letting us watch the characters grow around one another. It’s only off the mark because it gets weird and has annoying patches. Still, a sharp and a well handled peek at the understanding of age gaps.