I really wanted to love this movie. I tried with all my might to make justifications in my mind, and find the highlights in a murky tangled mess of what seemed to be a plot. I sadly report to you today however, that I did not find it. While this movie did ultimately entertain me, and intrigue me at some parts, I cannot say thoroughly enjoyed it.
Noah Baumbach was at the helm of this project, and from the outside looking in, it seemed to have all the right pieces to make me love it. The cast was filled with actors and actresses I really do like, Amanda Seyfreid, Adam Driver (who is apparently in every movie lately), Naomi Watts, and possibly one of my favorite actors of all time, Ben Stiller. From what I had understood, the plot seemed like it was interesting enough; older couple meets younger couple and fun, awkward times ensue. This kind of movie almost seems over used idea now, but with writer/director Noah Baumbach, who in the past has produced movies that have strayed away from the common cookie cutter storylines, I thought we’d see a really fresh take on a film of this nature.
While the movie wasn’t a bomb, it just didn’t deliver on the level that I believe it intended to. It did hit home on some points for my generation, specifically how the “American Dream” has taken a tech savvy turn for the worse, but it failed to really excel and dive deep into this notion. The movie had several themes and elements in it, and they were done okay, but they weren’t done great.
The greatest example I have of this, would be me writing this review now, and how much I’m struggling to explain the movie. There was just so much going on, I’m literally having trouble putting it to words. There was just so many issues and themes the movie tried to comment on, it just made the movie seem like a facade and lose its element of real-ness. At different times in the film, it was making comments on bearing children at an older age, friendship later in life, the drive for success, what it means to have success, what is honor, adoption, love, when is it too late to re-evaluate your life, what is generosity, is anyone genuine, taking no prisoners on your way to the top, the use of technology and how it affects different generations, family issues, the father in law who never liked you, and in real life even douches can win in the end.
If they had pick just a third of these, and really focused on them, I think the movie would have kept its element of authenticity and I would have left with a more positive outlook, but all of these things drug the movie down in terms of entertainment, pace, and predictability. Seriously, it was so obvious that from the very start Adam Driver’s character Jamie was just using Ben Stiller’s character.
However, Ben Stiller was a saving grace to me in some part. His character Josh was funny, intriguing, and relatable to the audience. Josh, a director of documentaries is prideful, brash and driven by his work, and his work alone. We see from the start of the film (in an excess of exposition I might add) that everything in life, including children and vacations, have been put on the back burners for the sake of his career. Add in the element that his father-in-law is one of the most successful individuals in Josh’s field, and you can sense why he feels all the pressure he does, and also makes sense why he puts so much value in Adam Driver’s character Jamie. Jaime comes off as free-spirited, driven by the pursuit of art, and not success, and seems to be the yin to Josh’s yang. However, like I said previously, while it is obvious to the audience that Jamie only intends to use Josh, this doesn’t inhabit you from viewing a remarkable performance by Stiller. It struck me on many levels personally in the terms of how he handled success and was too stubborn to take a handout, but justified it in his own mind because he was a self made man, and that was more respectable. He also had great chemistry with his wife played by Naomi Watts. They laughed, fought, and loved each other in a way that reflected a lot of actual marriages I see in real life. You feel sympathy for Josh, because it seems like life never really goes his way no matter what approach he takes. He tries to work hard and stick to the old ways of his craft, which doesn’t pan out. Then he compromises, feeling re-vitalized and adapts to the new age he lives in, but nothing really works. As a viewer I appreciated this because isn’t that actually how it happens? In a world where you can seemingly become famous over night, or be the next start up big shot, it always seems like it happens to everyone else, but never you. Stiller’s character really embodies this self viewed value.
Overall I did like the movie, I just wish I loved it. I’ll watch anything with Ben Stiller, but probably won’t be viewing this a second time. Josh has a line in the movie where he comments on how he had a vision in his head how a certain situation would play out and it was perfect, but in reality it didn’t go anything like he planned, and ultimately the situation held a dissatisfied outcome; which completely summarizes my feelings and thoughts on the film itself. High expectations that didn’t pan out. Perhaps it was my own fault for wanting so much from it, but hey, it happens.
My final rating is 6 out of 10, and would suggest you see it, but maybe wait for it to come out on redbox.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to tell your friends about me, unless you didn’t like what you read, in which case, shutup and tell no one. Let me know what you think in the comments!