REVIEW: While We’re Young

while-were-young

While We’re Young
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Written by: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried

“Enough about ethics, what about me?”

This line in Noah Baumbach’s latest movie comes toward the end, when the middle-aged documentary filmmaker played by Ben Stiller, reaches the end of an annoyingly grandiose diatribe against every other character in the movie and their perceived moral betrayals. It’s delivered, as much of the rest of the movie is, somewhere between satire and sincerity.  That’s to say, While We’re Young is much more of a return to form for Baumbach than the joyous outburst of his last film, 2013’s Frances Ha.

While We’re Young is Baumbach’s sometimes sharp, sometimes eye-roll-inducing look at generational gaps and overlaps.  Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are in their 40s, have no kids and are very defensive about it.  They’re losing their friends to parenthood, so when Josh meets Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried, a young couple in one of his film classes, they go on a double date and he and his wife quickly latch onto them.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Les Miserables

reg_1024.10lesmis.ls.12212Les Misérables 
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: William Nicholson (screenplay), Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics), Victor Hugo (novel)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried

When I originally saw Les Misérables, I was so disheartened and uninspired  that I didn’t even want to write down any thoughts about it.  Anne Hathaway was great, yes.  At times the raw combination of extended takes done in close-up and live singing from the performers was thrilling.  But the movie was bloated, sloppy and completely overdone.

Having not seen the stage musical or read Victor Hugo’s gargantuan novel, I came to the material with completely fresh eyes.  It begins with a sweeping, artificial-looking descent into a 19th century French work camp, where Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is completing a 20 year work sentence for stealing a loaf of bread for his family.  He is overseen by Javert (Russell Crowe), a ruthless, incredibly narrow character whose sole pursuit throughout the movie is to show up conveniently at any given scenario where Valjean is present and make him squirm.

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