Today: April 20, 2024

Growing Up According To Noah Baumbach

Aging happens to us all. Whether it’s the moment you realise that you’re not a child anymore, or the day you understand that you can no longer get away with a student lifestyle; aging is certain, whether we like it or not. This is an ongoing theme in cult director Noah Baumbach’s work, who often states that his films are autobiographical in a sense. Taking inspiration from his own experiences and life-stage anxiety, his latest project While We’re Young is a clever comedy about realising that you’re not as young as you use to be and the futile fight against growing up.

As While We’re Young arrives in cinemas this Friday, we take a look at how Noah Baumbach’s films tackle transitional moments about growing up and growing old.

Kicking And Screaming (1995)
Noah Baumbach’s first film, about a group of recent college graduates who are finding it difficult to move on, demonstrated that the filmmaker had a knack for acute observation and razor-sharp dialogue. Highlighting the tragi-comic period between your educational years, when you are told that anything is possible, to the stark reality of the ‘real world,’ Baumbach’s characters have heads filled with knowledge, but use it on pointless challenges with each other, such as daring the group to name five films with ‘monkeys’ in the title. By the end of the film, there has been break ups and failed starts, but the characters are finding their way, and that’s what matters.

The Squid And The Whale (2005)
Based on the childhood experiences of the filmmaker, The Squid and the Whale is an emotional account of two boys during their parents’ divorce. Walt (Jesse Eisenburg) initially sides with his father, as he feels he takes after him, while younger brother Frank (Owen Kline) supports his mother. As the brothers witness further hostility between their parents, they act out in various ways with Jesse ultimately being ordered to visit the school psychologist. It is only through talking to a neutral party that the teen sees things without his father’s toxic opinions and comes to realise that the man he looks up to has been a selfish father.

Greenburg (2010)
Charting a period of transition for a carpenter who goes to housesit his successful brother’s home after a breakdown, Greenburg is a story of lost souls finding direction in life. Stating bluntly that he is there to do nothing, Roger Greenburg (Ben Stiller) comes in contact with young personal assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig) who wants to achieve something in life but doesn’t know where to start. As the pair butt heads with each other over several weeks and have their own issues to sort out, they ultimately fall for each other.

Frances Ha (2012)
Collaborating again with Greta Gerwig, the writer/director created a truthful and amusing story about the thin line between being a young adult and an adult, set against a gorgeous black and white New York back drop. Frances (Gerwig) is a dancer who is drifting away from her best friend and decides to throw herself into her dreams. Unconsciously echoing Annie Hall, Baumbach and Gerwig create a loveable and flawed character in which to showcase the years spent trying to work out what kind of grown up you’re going to be.

While We’re Young (2015)
Baumbach’s upcoming film While We’re Young, centres around a forty-something couple (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) whose friends all seem to be starting families, while they struggle with the concept of parenthood – a great early scene sees the pair struggle to remember the story of the Three Little Pigs while they babysit. They get a new lust for life when they begin hanging out with a twenty-something hipster couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) who seem to worship the lifestyle that the older couple have rejected. The filmmaker continues his incredible use of observational comedy as he comments on how people look at others to define themselves in his funny, and most accessible, work to date.

While We’re Young comes to cinemas Friday 3 April

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