Saturday, June 13, 2015
1:38 AM |
The Middle Age Blues of Generation X
How did Ben Stiller become the primary voice of my generation? Because it seems that every time I chance to see a film of his, especially the more cerebral and serious ones, it is as if the film could read through me -- essentially a great, surprising plagiariser of my life, and I suppose the lives of others from my generation.
The reality of that somewhat perplexes me, not that I am not complaining -- but I never saw it coming: Ben Stiller as the quintessential Generation X'er. He is -- or at least the films he makes -- the best embodiment of Douglas Coupland's iteration of a generational idea.
As a film director, he was instrumental in giving that generation the definitive pop expression in Reality Bites
in 1994, although better films could arguably be had in Cameron Crowe's Singles
(1992), Kevin Smith's Clerks
(1992), and Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused
(1993) and Before Sunrise
(1995). Only Linklater seems to rival Stiller in exploring the further unravelling of this generation as it grows older, as we see in Before Sunset
(2004) and Before Midnight
How so? Years after Reality Bites
, Stiller revisits a representative of this generation and discovers its original sense of ennui has been extended -- now middle-aged but still despairing -- in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
And now Stiller stars as a stalled documentary filmmaker confronting the reality of passing youth in Noah Baumbach's very funny, and very sad, While We're Young
(2014). It is a film about Generation X's dashed dreams, and provides the stark contrast we make with the cool smugness and often charming mercilessness of a much younger generation. (The Millenials?) Employing a structure much like Joseph L. Mankiewicz's seminal All About Eve
(1950), where an interloper charms her way into devious success, the film finally becomes very much a depiction of a generational battle. Everyone in it survives with war wounds, except for the young, who have the earnestness of their youth as a kind of armour coated with Teflon.
In the end, Mr. Stiller's character, grown much wiser from the war, can only muse with resigned acceptance the ascendancy of the young antagonist in the movie: "He's not evil, he's just young."
And so the world turns.
Labels: film, generation x, life, millennials
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