**** out of ****
Like many independent filmmakers, Noah Baumbach’s film career has typically strayed away from the sensational characteristics associated with the genre he’s working with in any given film. He mostly makes bitter dramas with dry comedy or dry comedies with bitter drama. In his latest film, he re-teams with Ben Stiller, with whom he worked in Greenberg, to make a much more conventional comedy –and it may be my favorite of his films.
Stiller and Naomi Watts play a childless couple in their forties, struggling to relate with the rest of the world, as they’re losing the support of their yuppie peers, who are now parents. Stiller plays a documentary filmmaker, stuck on a project, which is boring and has no end in sight. While teaching at the university, he is approached by a young documentarian (Adam Driver) and his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) who express respect for his past work.
A friendship blossoms between the two couples, as the modern ironic hipster trends displayed by the young couple become a new interest for the older couple. What follows is a very funny movie, which functions as a love/hate letter to hipsters from an older generation.
I’ve often been critical of Baumbach for being another New York auteur, who embraces the motto, “write what you know” to an alienating degree. This film may still be aimed at white privileged people, but it has more broad appeal than films he’s made about self-destructive intellectual artists.
A lot of movies have been made about adults who think they’re “cool” –until they wake up on that dreadful day when a younger generation has redefined the word again. “Neighbors” is said to be a recent example of this, but this movie, possessing a similar rapid-fire humor delivery system, is a little more grounded by focusing on ideas, saving its only overt sight-gag for last. I really enjoyed it.