While We're Young, Not From Criterion But Still Pretty Solid

You know, when trailers for While We're Young first appeared online, I was a little nonplussed. I knew I was going to get it, because I've been a fan of Noah Baumbach's since I found him through his earliest films with Chris Eigeman, hoping for more Whit Stillman films. But it looked pretty generic, as if Baumbach was shooting for a broader audience with a more typical, mainstream comedy. Ben Stiller was back (not that I have anything against Greenberg), and the jokes and the situation all just sort of felt like typical Apatow-lite fare. So, alright, that would be fine. I was confident I'd still be amused by the film - hey, Charles Grodin's in it - but maybe I was letting my collector inclinations get the better of me, pushing me to pre-order a blu-ray of a I only really needed to watch once just for the sake of being a Baumbach completionist. That can be a bit of a bad habit of mine; I don't even want to tell you how many lame Hellraiser sequels I purchased before I put the brakes on that.

Update 5/9/17: Added the DVD edition, just because I could.
But happily I was wrong. The trailer, I think now, was a bit misleading. Not that this film is lacking the light-hearted wit it displayed, like all of Baumbach's work has; but the film has more heart, substance, and just flat-out good writing than the more casual fare I was bracing myself for. It's a smart story with issues you don't usually see other filmmakers handling, or at least not the finer points. In one sense, the film is about three documentary filmmakers with conflicting ideologies, which reminded me a lot of Crimes and Misdemeanors. And any film that manages to remind you of Crimes and Misdemeanors is probably on a very good track. Then, in another sense, the film's really about three married couples, and how they relate to each other and outsiders differently when they're together and when they're apart. There's also more familiar themes of growing pains, technology and generation gaps. In fact, this film makes great use of a scene from Ibsen's Master Builder, the Wallace Shawn version of which has been very conveniently concurrently released from Criterion, and makes for a terrific double bill. Admittedly, one or two scenes (the bit with the yoga, or the hip-hop class shown in the trailer) do feel like they're born of some more mainstream Tina Fey/ Steve Carrell-style comedy, but that's not really a bad thing; possibly pandering, they're still funny, and Baumbach makes them fit effectively within the rest of the story.

So yes, now I'm very glad I've got Lions Gate's brand new blu of While We're Young in my collection, and didn't waste money renting a stream of it first or something. It comes in a slipcover which doesn't mention any extras on the back. But then the inside cover with alternate artwork (matching the DVD) shows there is at least a little bit. No loaded special edition, but a nice little package.
2015 Lions Gate DVD on top; 2015 Lions Gate blu on the bottom.
The slightly matted 1.85:1 image looks great, as you'd expect from a brand new release where the filmmakers probably handed off a finished digital transfer for Lions Gate to slap directly onto disc. Detail looks so crisp and clean on the blu, it's a little to look at the compressed DVD.  I mean, it's not a huge difference, but when you get in close, it's definitely more on the ugly side.  This film has a nice, sharp but low contrast look, with light darks and whites that are consistently downright tan.  So the DVD struggles.  Audio is a nice 5.1 track (DTS-HD on the blu), with optional English, Spanish and English SDH subtitles.
The extras, which are the same on the DVD and blu, are divided into four featurettes and two behind-the-scenes segments. Honestly, the distinction between the two categories is pretty arbitrary, but they're listed separately on the menu. All six segments are short and clip heavy, but still include interviews with most of the leads and Baumbach and do feel like they're saying at least a little more than the typical hollow promotional filler. They're satisfying in that they feel worth watching, but all together I think they run less than twenty minutes and you definitely won't feel like you've finished a special edition. There are also a couple bonus trailers, but disappointingly, not one for the actual film on hand.
One interesting little detail: in the film, the hip-hop class is dancing to 2Pac's "Hit 'Em Up," the song where he and his crew diss Puff Daddy and his Bad Boy team. But in the featurette about that scene, they're dancing to "Do What I Do" by someone named William Davies featuring Nino Bless. They made the right decision using 2Pac in the film, it's a funnier contrast with the darker, violent lyrics as opposed to the more generic, upbeat track by Davies; but I wonder why it's different here. Did Baumbach swap songs late in the game, or maybe Lions Gate just didn't want to pay to license 2Pac for the featurette, who knows?
So yeah, if any fellow Noah Baumbach fans were holding off on this film at all, I'm happy to report this film won't let you down so go ahead and jump right in. And the blu is a good little disc, even if most of us were probably hoping Criterion would do another fancy edition like they have for several of his past tiles. And if you're not particularly a Baumbach fan coming into this, I'm not sure this is the movie to really jump in and start discovering... I'd suggest maybe The Squid and the Whale. I mean, this film will still work as a charming little "we're no longer in our 20s" comedy either way; but then you'll probably be more than happy just catching this on Netflix. But the blu will be right here waiting for anyone with their laminated fanclub card.

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