Documentary filmmaker Josh (Stiller) has spent almost a decade trying to follow early success with his next film. His wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) shares his comfortable, if unadventurous lifestyle. The couple, in their early forties, find themselves growing apart from friends of a similar age on account of not having kids of their own. Into this relaxed environment descend two free-spirits who are about to change everything. Jamie (Driver) and his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried) live the “hipster” lifestyle as if they were in the middle of Shoreditch. Social Media and modern technology are passé for the youngster, with their unwavering lust for life hitting the older couple hard. Jamie looks up to Josh, both personally and professionally while Cornelia finds herself going to hip-hop classes instead of hanging out with friends her own age.
Things take a darker turn when the ideals that Josh holds dear are ripped apart by Jamie’s actions, but is it too late to convince anyone else that “the young are evil”?
While we might be tired of Ben Stiller’s “angry-man-on-the-edge” routine, dating back even further than his role as Mr. Furious in the underrated Mystery Men, here the script allows the actor to show the gradual exasperation that we can all recognise. Jealousy plays a part in Josh’s eventual hatred of Jamie, but there is great class in the way it is all portrayed in an age-appropriate manner.
Stiller and Driver make for a superb pairing. They both give their initial friendship the warmth and excitement of any fledgling relationship, with the bromance aspect being kept at arm’s length. The first act looks at how the old interact with the young, and this is done so well that you feel like there is an entire film to made just in this portion. When it stops trying to be clever (a tired reference to how people look at their phones at social gatherings is an anomaly), Baumbach allows himself and his cast to have fun.
A stomach-churning central scene could have gone very wrong, but in the hands of this director and these actors, it is a superb highlight. Don’t overlook the smart turns by Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfried either, both portray the issues faced by women across the generations with aplomb.
As the plot progresses we get to see the continual pressure put on Josh and Corneilia to have children. The previously mentioned universal fear – the fear of growing old – is given a more serious edge. Where as we previously laughed as failing eyesight and cycling-induced back pain, now we are left squirming in our seats trying to remember if we have fallen foul of this social faux-pas.
Fans of Baumbach will find much to love here. The director takes sly pot-shots at a number of targets, and impressively hits the target with alarming regularity. Even when a finale looks like it is about to run out of steam, a devilishly smart role-reversal on Stiller’s usual over-the-top scene stealing sees the story home. If you want to truly know what it’s like to feel like you are unable to be heard over the sound of the infuriatingly young, watch the last ten minutes of this film. It borders on perfection.
After all, how can you not love a film that asks the questions “when did The Goonies stop being a bad movie?”