Awards Profile: While We’re Young

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Director: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried

Synopsis: An uptight documentary filmmaker and his wife find their lives loosened up a bit after befriending a free-spirited younger couple.

Why It Might Succeed: 

2013 saw director Noah Baumbach have the biggest hit of his career with “Frances Ha.” The film certainly had its supporters and that goodwill may lead over to Baumbach’s latest effort, “While We’re Young.”

Baumbach is becoming one of those filmmakers with his own niche. Audiences have a strong sense of what they are getting into with one of his films, and a base of support has formed around his work, past and future. After “Frances Ha,” that reach only grew.

“While We’re Young” also brings a strong ensemble cast that includes Baumbach alums Ben Stiller and Adam Driver with new comers Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfried. Stiller gave one of his most respected performances in 2010’s “Greenberg” and will look to duplicate that as the actor looks for his first Oscar nomination. Watts is typically strong, especially in indie fare and Amanda Seyfried has shown she can hold her own in talented ensembles.Ben+Stiller+While+Young+Films+Brooklyn+R9qVx9JJhP-l

Perhaps the most exciting prospect, however, is Adam Driver. Driver is a budding star that has made a name for himself on HBO’s “Girls,” and may be coming to a galaxy far, far away quite soon. He’s close to truly having his breakout performance, and a strong supporting turn here may be able to provide that.

One factor that probably limited “Frances Ha’s” chances as one of the major players last year was its release. A first quarter release kept it out of the forefront of the Academy’s minds. But we don’t know yet when we will get “While We’re Young,” which will likely put it somewhere late third quarter/fourth quarter of the year. A strong possibility of a premiere festival slot and a fall release, voters may latch on to the film as this year’s indie darling.

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Why It Might Fail:

The mystery of when “While We’re Young” will get its release is also the thing that could keep it out of this year’s race. First, we don’t know if the film will be done in time for a release this year. Second, even if it is and it plays the festival route, there is no guarantee it will get a release. A perfect example of that was “Foxcatcher” last year. The film had landed distribution, was all set to premiere at the AFI Film Fest, but was pulled last minute and completely pushed from 2013. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Focus Features to take a similar action with Baumbach’s film depending on how this year’s slate plays out.

But, for the sake of this piece, let’s say “While We’re Young” does land in 2014. In that case, the big thing holding it up will be how much Baumbach’s the Academy has latched on to Baumbach’s work by this point. To date, Baumbach has one Oscar nomination for his screenplay of “The Squid and the Whale.” He has been a major figure on the indie circuit, but his films have had trouble branching over to the Academy’s sensibilities. Will his latest work be able to resonate in ways that his previous films have not with the Academy?

Oscar chances:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Actor
  • Best Actress
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Original Screenplay

 

About Michael Balderston

NoVA native who has returned to the Washington D.C. area after two years in L.A. My biggest annoyance since leaving L.A. is not having immediate access to indie films on their first weekend, but I'm making due. When I'm not tracking the year's Oscar players or exploring film history, I'm rooting for my Philadelphia sports teams.