I am inspired to share with you my thoughts on recently viewing a DVD of “While We’re Young,” a 2014 comedy-drama written, produced, and directed by Noah Baumbach starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, and Amanda Seyfried. See the trailer, if you haven’t already. Okay, it looks like it’s about a middle-aged couple who wonder if life has passed them by. It’s about that but, at it’s also very much about the breakdown in honesty and integrity in a world where such things don’t seem to matter as much as they used to.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard about the ridiculous story of our times, the misadventure of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o who was supposedly “catfished” in a bizarre girlfriend hoax. So, hold up a bit, “catfished,” you say? If you’re not familiar, this is shorthand for being duped into believing you’re in a relationship with someone who does not really exist. The idea is that a person enters into an internet romance without ever actually meeting the person in person. You know, for reals? And then they eventually find out it was all a hoax. Crazy stuff, huh? The truly crazy thing is that, even to this day, this concept is taken for granted as being legitimate– or at least by the producers of the Catfish franchise. You see, it all began with the 2010 movie, so-called, “documentary,” “Catfish,” which went on to become, and currently still is, a show on MTV by the same goofball name. Now, I say all this to make a point: “catfished,” far from genuinely representing a duped lover is the perfect example of how far we’ve fallen from authenticity in the media. As ludicrous as both the movie and show are, as false as the premise is for both the movie and the show, the official word is that it’s all bona fide true! And this sort of hogwash is what our main character Josh (played by Ben Stiller) will not stand for!
You see, Josh is just like you and me. He’s human. He is vulnerable. He is prone to doubting himself. Then along comes what seems to be a younger and smarter version of himself, Jamie (played by Adam Driver). Both men are immersed in the world of documentaries. Well, Josh is for sure, perhaps too immersed as he’s been working on the same rather tiresome film for many years. In fact, it’s taking Josh way too long to speak the truth he so desperately seeks. Or is he lazy and complacent? Out of the fog, emerges Jamie who pops up at one of Josh’s lectures. Josh feels rejuvenated in the presence of the fresh and alive Jamie. Before Josh knows what’s hit him, he and his wife, Cornelia (played by Naomi Watts) are swept up by the youthful charisma of Jamie and his wife, Darby (played by Amanda Seyfried). If only Josh could so effortlessly create and relate to the world in the same way as Jamie, the Young Turk. Ah, but things are not always as they may seem, right?
You could say that, in a way, Josh ends up being “catfished.” I really hate using that term as it brings up that bogus movie and TV show. And I happen to love catfish as a culinary delight. That’s as far as I ever had to go with the word. However, I do dig the new definition I have come up with: catfish: “to denigrate tradition; to ignore honesty and integrity; to forget about ethics.” I think that covers it. So, Josh is not duped into an internet romance. No, but he is duped. I’m not sure that I’m getting out of this film exactly what it has to offer but it’s pretty close. Overall, the idea that it’s not only okay, but expected, that you cut corners, is well expressed here. It could have been better, and more clearly, expressed but, what can you do? We live in times where it’s okay to cut some corners. And, hey, it’s a major Hollywood motion picture. Some corners will get cut! In these cases, you need to imagine the perfect film within the big budget movie. Anyway, I had been meaning to speak on the issue of infotainment and the slippery slope we’ve been heading with faux documentaries. This review was inspired by all the attention to a recent post on Discovery Channel’s TREASURE QUEST: SNAKE ISLAND. That post struck a chord. This response, in the form of a review, will do for now.