While We’re Young (Blu-ray)

June 26, 2015 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

It takes a lot of luck and/or talent to make it in Hollywood. I’d say it takes a lot more to have a career that’s spanned as long as Ben Stiller’s. Granted he’s really only been in the limelight for a couple of decades and, yes, he comes from some good Hollywood stock – but without talent, I’m guessing that he’d have long ago been discarded by Tinseltown. Stiller has obviously made a name for himself as a comic, but he’s delved into some pretty deep territory with a few of his films. Audiences were shown this with 1998’s Permanent Midnight in which he played a drugged out writer, Jerry Stahl. He had a part in one of my favorite films, 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums, though I suppose that’s comedic territory. However in the last few years, Stiller has taken a few risks and has ventured into pure drama territory. A bit risky for someone who’s built their reputation on making people laugh. 2010’s Greenberg was a hit with critics and featured Stiller with Writer/Director Noah Baumbach. They’ve once again teamed for While We’re Young and I can relate. Oh…I can relate!

Stiller plays Josh, a documentary filmmaker who’s had success in the past, and is now in the process of working on his follow up. It’s going on a decade and is six hours long. Loving wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) is content to produce her father’s (Charles Grodin) films (he’s also a successful documentary filmmaker). Josh and Cornelia have tried to have kids. She’s had miscarriages and evidently adoption isn’t an option. They’ve accepted this and have eased into their 40’s being semi-happily married. Josh, who moonlights teaching a continuing education class at a local college, meets Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a young “hipster” couple and Jamie’s a fan of Josh’s. After some prodding, the couple become reluctant friends which gives Josh and Cornelia an opportunity to once again experience the exuberance of their 20’s. Add to this that they’re now isolated from their “older” friends who have just had their first child. Jamie, himself an aspiring filmmaker, soaks up every ounce of Josh’s advice. There’s more to it than that, of course, but to divulge any more would be to give away some valuable plot points in the film.

Prior to my viewing, I’d not heard of the movie. I just saw Ben Stiller’s name and figured it was worth a shot. Of course I’d heard of Noah Baumbach and have seen both The Squid and the Whale as well as Kicking and Screaming and loved them both. This movie spoke to me in the sense that I’m near the age that Stiller and Watts’ characters are in their life. I can’t totally relate in the sense of children, but seeing 20-somethings and thinking that you’re still somehow their equal. And all of the sudden you realize that you’ve got arthritis and you have to hold the paper further away from your eyes to see the print. It’ll happen folks, trust me…it’ll happen. This is an intriguing movie and if for no other reason than to see Charles Grodin, deadpan as usual, walk around in a bathrobe. I don’t think it’ll be up everyone’s alley, but it’s nice to see Stiller take a departure from his usual comedic roles and try something different. Good for him.

Video: How’s it look?

The movie takes place in and around New York, though we never really see a lot of the highlights of the city. Then again we’ve seen plenty of films in the Big Apple, so it’s of little consequence. By and large, the 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer is a good one. Detail is excellent, we can see the grey creeping into Stiller’s hair and Naomi Watts’s laugh lines are a bit more pronounced. Colors are a bit on the muted side, though there are a few instances in which it’s a color explosion. I found the movie a bit dark at times, though I’m not sure how much clarity I want when a scene is devoted to people puking in a bowl (it’s hard to describe).  All things considered, it’s a good-looking transfer, but a few soft scenes took the score down a notch. I doubt any viewers will be disappointed.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Like Woody Allen’s films, there isn’t a plethora of surround sound in the film. It’s about as dialogue driven as it can get, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The included DTS HD Master Audio track handles the vocals with the greatest of ease and some ambient sound effects fill the air for a little more ambiance. The front stage gets the lion’s share of the track to work with and does a fine job. There’s not a whole lot, audio wise, to this film but again I don’t think anyone will throw up their hands and complain here. Of note, there is a “hip hop” scene that sounds particularity robust, I felt I’d throw that in for…whatever reason.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Behind the Scenes
       Ayahuasca Ceremony – This is more along the lines of Naomi Watts praising Stiller an actor as well as playing “drunk” (or in this case “high”) in a scene.

      Hip-Hop Class – A few scenes from the film featuring the hip hop sequence as Watts tells us of her (not so) great dancing ability.

  • Featurettes
      The Cast – Baumbach tells us of his inspiration for writing the movie, working again with Stiller and Driver and the overall theme of the film.

      Director Noah Baumbach – Stiller, Seyfried and Driver praise the Writer/Director and their experiences working on the film.

      Charles Grodin – A montage of clips featuring Grodin’s character as well some short commentary from Stiller and Baumbach.

      Generation Tech – Explored are some of the gadgets that we’ve become so accustomed to in our everyday lives and how they impact different generations.

  • TrailersLove & Mercy, A Most Violent Year, Laggies, Obvious Child and The Skeleton Twins

The Bottom Line

Fans of Noah Baumbach’s films know who you are. This delivers the goods and along with lines of Greenberg, The Squid and the Whale and Kicking and Screaming. Ben Stiller does a fine job of leading an all-star cast and the film spoke to me in a way I didn’t think it would. The Blu-ray has above average video and audio quality as well as an assortment of (all too brief) supplements.

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