While We’re Young (15) ***

While We're Young.
While We're Young.
Rebecca Ferguson and Michael Fassbender star in The Snowman.

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Opening with a quote from Ibsen’s play The Master Builder, While We’re Young is an acutely observed but emotionally underpowered comedy drama about a 40-something couple, who become intoxicated by the vivacity and carefree abandon of the younger generation.

Writer-director Noah Baumbach, who was Oscar nominated for his screenplay The Squid And The Whale, elegantly subverts stereotypes by contrasting the unedifying pastimes of his world-weary protagonists, who are slaves to their smart phones and on-demand entertainment services, with the whims of two 20-something dreamers, who play board games, keep in shape at hip-hop exercise classes and have re-appropriated vintage clutter as their own.

Like Baumbach’s earlier work, this occasionally spiky portrait of middle-aged malaise is peppered with polished one-liners and elicits strong performances from the ensemble cast.

Josh Srebnick (Ben Stiller) is a talented filmmaker, who cannot muster the energy or enthusiasm to complete a documentary that has consumed the past 10 years of his life.

He is stuck in a rut with his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts), who offers support when she isn’t producing the pictures of her father, the legendary director Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin). By chance, they meet aspiring twenty-something filmmaker Jamie (Adam Driver) and his kooky girlfriend Darby (Amanda Seyfried), whose lust for life is infectious.

Flattered by Jamie’s effusive praise for his work, Josh neglects his long-gestated feature to become a mentor to the younger filmmaker.

Stiller and Watts are an attractive pairing, verbally sparring well with each other, while Driver and Seyfried embrace their roles with fervour.

Baumbach’s film gradually runs out of steam and a protracted final sequence at an awards ceremony doesn’t provide either the closure or crescendo that we or the characters crave.

Life is full of disappointments and in some respects, While We’re Young is one of them.