Noah Baumbach’s first movie, the post-college comedy Kicking and Screaming, turns twenty this year. In it, the fussy character played by Carlos Jacott is described as “having two moods: antsy and testy.” Josh (Ben Stiller), the central character in Baumbach’s new While We’re Young, would have been graduating college around 1995, and though he doesn’t necessarily resemble the young neurotics of the earlier film, he does suggest their critical self-awareness when he describes his two primary modes, in middle age, as “wistful and disdainful.”
Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) would have been entering kindergarten around the time the Kicking and Screaming kids were set loose upon the real world, which makes them a potentially strange couple-buddy for Josh and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts), who have tried to accept their childlessness while adjusting to the fact that their best friends (Elizabeth Reaser and Adam Horowitz) are now parents. When Jamie and Darby turn up at the continuing-ed course Josh teaches in documentary filmmaking, Josh is flattered into friendship with them, energized by their youthful hipsterism—their desire to “make things” (“for about twelve hours, I thought I could make a desk,” Josh notes—enthusiastically, not rueful, about his implied failure). Cornelia is skeptical at first, but goes along on their Bushwick barbecues and subway tunnel walks and shaman retreats.
Baumbach, then, after ably chronicling twentysomething life in Kicking and Frances Ha as well as middle-age fuck-ups in Margot at the Wedding and Greenberg, mashes together his areas of expertise into generation-gap comedy.