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Noah Baumbach‘s While We’re Young, one of the most enjoyable films that I’ve seen in a long time — and one of the first two products of Barry Diller and Scott Rudin‘s new production company IAC Films (the other being Chris Rock‘s comedy Top Five, which is also playing at TIFF) — had its world premiere on Saturday night and played again on Sunday afternoon at the Toronto International Film Festival, after which it was greeted with considerable applause and, I’m told by reliable sources, multiple bids for its U.S. distribution rights, which remain unresolved as of this writing.
The film, a laugh-out-loud dramedy grown adults about the meaning of “adulthood” in the 21st century, feels to me like the best Woody Allen movie that Woody Allen didn’t direct — and one that will stand a strong shot at landing a nom in the Oscar category in which Allen has been nominated more often than anyone else in history, best original screenplay, if and when someone picks it up. (It feels to me like Fox Searchlight or A24’s cup of tea, but we’ll see.)
The plot essentially involves two New York couples of different generations who meet, like and, in some ways, envy each other. The middle-aged pair is comprised of independently wealthy intellectuals, documentary filmmaker (Ben Stiller, who previously worked with Baumbach on 2010’s acclaimed Greenberg) and the daughter (Oscar nominee Naomi Watts) of a successful documentary filmmaker (Charles Grodin), who, having decided to stop trying to become parents, have come to feel that they no longer have anything in common with their babies-producing friends. They arrive at an unlikely friendship with the younger pair, which consists of two free-spirited hipsters, an aspiring documentary filmmaker (Girls‘ Adam Driver, who just won the Venice Film Festival’s best actor prize for Hungry Hearts) and his adoring wife (Amanda Seyfried), who make the older couple feel young and cool again.
This older couple enjoys being embraced by the younger couple and admires their fondness for anachronisms (typewriters, vinyl records, video cassettes, board games, roller blades, cowboy hats, remembering things without the assistance of the Internet, etc.), and the younger couple appear to value the older couple’s knowledge and experience. And so they begin bonding over the preferred activities of the younger couple, such as hip hop dance classes and shamanic meditation sessions. Suffice to say that hilarity ensues — and problems arise, both within each couple and between the two couples. (I think that While We’re Young and Jason Reitman‘s new film at this fest, Men, Women & Children would make for a nice double-feature.)
The quartet of actors are all great, and, if the film gets picked up, some of them might garner Independent Spirit Award noms, if not Golden Globe noms, too. But the real star of this film is Baumbach’s script, which is right up there with his most acclaimed pearlier work, including The Squid and the Whale (2005), Margot at the Wedding (2007), Greenberg and Frances Ha (2012). That could and perhaps should earn recognition not only from the indie community, but, as was the case Squid, the Academy, as well.
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