Life, we understand, is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. None of those plans includes ageing — not the brutal onset of old age, but the casual creeping up of the middle years. One day, just when you think you have finally caught up, you realise there are faster, younger, better-looking people in the race.
Of course you know by now which section of the race this piece is coming from. ‘While We’re Young’ though knows better. A delightful and witty comedy, it warmly embraces the likes of us while gently treating those others, ribbing both and mocking none.
Josh and Cornelia (Stiller, Watts) are your average, modestly successful, even immoderately happy early-40s New York couple. Their artistic ambitions (he has made one well-received documentary film and is 10 years into another, she is a producer and the daughter of a celebrated filmmaker) allow the couple to ignore the gnawing fact that their own friends have moved on into largely uncomplaining parenthood. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Josh and Caroline have decided they are better off without a child.
Enter Jamie and Darby (Driver, Seyfried) into their lives. They are in their 20s, not averse to having children already, and with artistic hopes of own. A budding filmmaker, Jamie “idolises” Josh. Darby makes ice-cream, only the exotic flavours. They live in one of those shabby NY attics that are gloriously free-spirited within, and Jamie not only has a ceiling-to-floor vinyl record collection, he works on a typewriter, and builds own desks. Jamie also doesn’t Facebook, watches VHS tapes of old shows, and doesn’t believe in Googling instantly for trivia. “Let us not know it,” he says in a way that makes so much more sense coming from others.
Their presence makes Josh and Caroline almost guilty about how they live — on Netflix and social network, tablets and phones — and about the cynicism they have grown into. Talking about Jamie’s movie collection, an overwhelmed Josh exclaims, “He doesn’t distinguish between high and low!” A more sceptical Cornelia can’t help noticing, “All the things that we once threw out they have. And somehow they look so much better with them.” The “generosity” of Jamie and Darby is a constant surprise to the two elders.