Solness: “I’ve become so disturbed by younger people. They upset me so much that I’ve closed my doors.”
Hilde: “Maybe you should open the door and let them in.”
Paul McCartney’s Let ‘Em In echoes this same sentiment in the film’s closing credits.
It’s one of two contrasting sentiments that the movie gives us; the other is best exemplified by James Murphy’s opening and closing lullaby rendition of David Bowie’s Golden Years, which is alternately both sweet and unnerving. Let them in, yes, but also be wary. It’s these two contrasting viewpoints that make While We’re Young so rich and complex.
(2013), While We’re Young packs it in. This movie keeps expanding as it goes along in unexpected ways, taking on larger themes and ideas with every passing minute. I kept waiting for it to not quite manage all of these things successfully – but Baumbach pulls it together beautifully.
But what starts as admiration and even genuine friendship eventually grows into annoyance – after all, these kids don’t even know what they’re referencing half the time. “That’s a thing I actually experienced – to him, its just some kitschy thing he saw on YouTube,” Josh complains of an old commercial James quotes ironically. Finally, annoyance leads to disgust, as Josh discovers that Jamie’s hip exterior masks a morally questionable code of ethics.
It’s frustrating to watch Jamie experience the kind of success that’s eluded Josh for years, despite the fact that Jamie doesn’t adhere to either the ethics of documentary filmmaking or really any basic values as a decent person. And when Josh finally exposes him as a fraud, nobody even seems to really mind.
While You’re Young is a wonderfully angry film. Baumbach doesn’t settle for some kind of wishy-washy “Well, each generation is different from the last one, and each one is valid in their own ways“ attitude. What makes the movie work is that it has a perspective. When it wants to be, it is incisively sharp, indicting the generational values of millennials while also accepting the fact that accepted values and norms are changing.