There’s an age you reach where you come to the sudden realization that you aren’t as ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ as you think, and you can no longer relate to those who are. How you react to that realization depends on how much you value being cool or how you feel about aging in general.
The comedy, written and directed by Noah Baumbach, stars Ben Stiller as Josh, a documentary filmmaker who is married to Cornelia, played by Naomi Watts. Josh is approached by Jamie (Adam Driver), an aspiring filmmaker, in a class he teaches and the two form a friendship, despite the age difference.
Josh and Cornelia spend time with Jamie and his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried), which causes them to question their own spontaneity and admire the openness and limitless nature of their new friends – a quality they begin to emulate. This alienates their longtime friends Fletcher (Adam Horovitz) and Marina (Maria Dizzia) – who have an infant, as they find themselves unable to relate to them and feel the pressure of social norms that expect them to have children of their own.
It’s almost a statement piece about breaking away from social expectations and you’re rooting for them to do it.
As the two couples get to know each other, Josh and Cornelia begin to adapt more of Jamie and Darby’s ways. Josh gets a new hat, Cornelia takes up a hip-hop dancing class, and there’s an interesting shift in how both generations handle technology. The 40-sometimes have embraced it while the 20-somethings have retreated – choosing not to Google something and instead trying to remember a particular factoid, even if it takes days. This, to Josh and Darby, is spontaneity.
And how better to be spontaneous than to completely switch up where the story is heading. Josh has been working on the same documentary for over ten years and it suffers from being too complicated with a subject that is difficult to relate to. The same problem gradually comes into play with this film as the focus shifts away from a mid-life crisis to a specific incident involving the ideals of two filmmakers. Pretty soon, the plot is in a completely different place than it was in the beginning and when there’s an attempt to get back on track, it’s already too late.
The dialogue isn’t dry and the humour stays on track but the ability to relate, which drew us in at the beginning, lessens over time, making for a disappointing final third. And for a movie created on a foundation on something relatable, losing that is significant.