Ben Stiller’s role in the film While We’re Young is a bit of a departure, but a good departure.
The Guardian is reporting that Ben Stiller’s portrayal of Josh, a married documentary maker, is a challenge due to the character being almost rundown by life, giving the character an understated feeling towards life. In the film, Josh (Stiller) is creating a documentary about turmoil in Turkey, and has been producing it for eight years now. At the beginning of the film, Josh is never really sure if he will ever get the documentary done.
Josh’s marriage to Cornelia (Naomi Watts) seems to have hit the same kind of underachieving wall. After their similar-aged married friends — played by Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz (the Beastie Boys’ Kid Ad-Rock) — give birth to their first child, and Horovitz’s character stays home to care for the child, Josh and Cornelia are confronted by the fact they don’t, or seemingly can’t, have children, further numbing them from life.
After Josh gives a lecture to a group of prospective filmmakers, one of the young filmmakers, Jamie (played by Adam Driver), strikes up a quick friendship with Josh. Soon, Josh and Cornelia befriend Josh and his wife, Darby (played by Amanda Seyfried), and their lives start to take a quick turn.
The Chicago Tribune reports that once the couples become friends, Josh become energized by Jamie’s youthfulness. Josh sees new things in both his work and his marriage. Stiller’s egoless portrayal to this point allows Josh to begin asking why his work isn’t done, why his marriage is this way, and why isn’t he changing it.
For Josh and Cornelia, the brush with youth re-energizes their marriage, even as it reveals the depths of Josh’s pettiness, once he realizes that this young filmmaker he was so willing to help may actually be on to something interesting. And it’s Stiller, with Watts as his anchor, whose revitalized character brings a new spark to the film.
It’s the rebirth of Josh and Cornelia’s marriage that sparks everything. Stiller and Watts not only show convincing chemistry — the sort that can sometimes be conveyed with as little as a glance between them — Stiller and Watts also demonstrate that while this industry often ignores actors past a certain age, these two are richer and more layered now than ever before. Middle age is like a foreign country, Baumbach seems to be saying, and some day, if it hasn’t happened already, we wake up there and realize we don’t speak the language. It’s Stiller’s metamorphosis throughout the film that cements Baumbach’s commentary.