So, Ben Stiller & Naomi Watts are a still childless couple that attempt to rekindle their youth via a friendship with Adam Driver & Amanda Seyfried. That’s the set-up anyway. I was really disappointed in this film. I quite like all four the main actors, Seyfried a bit less than the others, I guess. But Baumbach’s movie is ultimately just a hysterical screed about how kids today don’t have any morals and anyway, they’re on their phones a whole lot, aren’t they? Luckily, old people still have ethics and artistic integrity. Right? Stiller suffers the worst here; he’s kind of a stand-in for Baumbach at times, though Baumbach doesn’t have problems mocking him mercilessly. When Baumbach is being tough-minded with Stiller’s character, a blocked documentary filmmaker, the film works fine. A pitch meeting with a callow hedge-fund baby, brilliantly played in a scene-stealing turn by Ryan Serhant, is hilarious and a scene where Stiller shows his father-in-law, a perpetually befuddled and absolutely wonderful Charles Grodin, a cut of the film is even better. Grodin’s a real pleasure, for sure. And Watts gives a good performance, even if the film doesn’t treat her character in a particularly deep way. Driver is also very good; he’s attempting a real performance, but the script lets him down in a really annoying way, turning him into a complete villain by the end of the film, but not very convincingly. It’s a turn I just didn’t really buy and Baumbach makes the character the punching bag for Stiller to rant self-righteously about how horrible Driver’s generation is for a good ten minutes, I’d say. The climax of the film is, yeah, just completely interminable. As for Seyfried’s character, well, she’s barely worthy of the name; no wonder Gerwig bailed on this thinly written part. Ultimately, the film just goes on way too long and when Baumbach attempts to get serious and cranky about the way young people are ruining the world by being less artistically sincere (oh, just go **** yourself), it just falls apart completely. There are good things in it, but the film really squandered every bit of good will it had built up with its occasional wit and some solid performances in that last thirty to forty minutes. Here’s hoping Baumbach’s next, where he’s reteaming with Gerwig, is better than this. Distinctly average. 2 stars.
tl;dr – preachy, moralistic film argues crankily that young people just don’t get it, but it manages a few nice moments amidst its general failure. 2 stars.