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"While We're Young" is a hilarious, incisive and honest comedy about facing the realities of growing up well into your 40s — until it's not anymore.

At about the two-thirds mark, writer-director Noah Baumbach steers his film down a less-satisfying path, more plot-driven and less existential than the spirited whimsy that precedes it. It's a misstep that cheats not only the characters, but the audience that's grown so close to them.

Which is a shame, because "While We're Young" starts off heading somewhere special. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a childless married couple in their 40s who find themselves losing touch with friends whose lives are centered around their children. They befriend a couple 20 years their junior, played with inspired aloofness by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried, and suffer an identity crisis as they try to relate to the hipster Millennials.

Baumbach, who also directed Stiller in the more acidic "Greenberg," confronts issues of arrested development and the self-denial that comes with growing up head on. Stiller and Watts are radiant, especially in their scenes with Driver and Seyfried, which highlight the age gap between them that no fedora can bridge. Baumbach plays with universal themes about the uncertainty of aging, the elusive nature of "cool" and the acceptance that comes with settling down, and he slyly gives the film's most mature role to a Beastie Boy (Adam Horovitz, who has cunning comedic timing).

Then things go astray as Baumbach turns cynical. But it doesn't undo what came before it. It just shows that Baumbach still has a little growing up to do himself.

agraham@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/grahamorama

'While We're Young'

GRADE: B-

Rated R: For language

Running time: 97 minutes

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