In Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity, protagonist Rob Fleming describes his first youthful crush. He falls in love with a pair of honeymooners he meets while on holiday with his family. “It wasn’t one or the other, it was the unit," he explains. Something similar happens to Josh (Ben Stiller), a documentarist in his 40s, in Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young. His marriage to Cornelia (Naomi Watts) has hit a bit of a rut; they’re at the age when couples have to choose between having children soon or never, but his work and the memory of earlier miscarriages keep coming in the way.

It’s at this point that Josh and, to a lesser extent, Cornelia, find a unit to love. The objects of their affection are Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a hipster couple in their 20s. They’re everything the older couple aren’t: spontaneous, unencumbered, effortlessly cool. Soon, they’re spending most of their time together, attending “street beaches" and shaman gatherings and dance classes.

During one of their meetings, Jamie mentions he’s making a small film and Josh offers to help. As Jamie’s project keeps getting bigger and better, Josh—who’s been working on the same film for 10 years—begins to feel jealous. This is compounded by what he feels is Jamie’s dishonest approach to documentary realism. Instead of trying to land a whale of a thought, Baumbach sets his sights on a bunch of smaller trophies and reels them all in. Within a tidy 97 minutes of running time, he skewers society’s perpetual longing for youth, the attractions and limitations of hipster cool, the nature of truth in documentary, and the very specific sort of jealousy that one can only feel towards a protégé.

Yet While We’re Young never loses sight of the fact that it’s a comedy (Watts, gratifyingly, is as willing to look silly as Stiller is, at one point doing a beautiful impression of a middle-aged person trying to dance hip hop). Everyone is flawed but sympathetic, and Driver is marvellous as the ebullient, manipulative hippie savant. There’s a sharpness here, allied with a lightness of touch, that recalls recent Woody Allen. Though Baumbach has always doffed his hat to Woody, it’s difficult to imagine the old master doing better with the same material.

While We’re Young releases in theatres on Friday

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