Posts Tagged ‘Noah Baumbach’

Showdown over “Greenberg”

April 7, 2010

One of the running gags/motifs throughout “Greenberg” is the eponymous protagonist’s pissy rejection of an attitude that he insists is quintessentially L.A.—the “me me me” mentality—oblivious to the fact that no other character in the movie embodies that same self-absorption better than him. With that said, pardon me while I shill for myself: the DC column comes a day early this week and it’s about—you guessed it—“Greenberg.”

In today’s paper you’ll also find my colleague Mark Riechers’ review of the film, which I disagree with for a bunch of reasons, as should be obvious from my gushy ode.

I’m particularly stumped by Mark’s assertion that Roger is an “an irredeemable asshole.” Sure, Greenberg is a prickly prick for 98% of the movie—but when does he do anything that’s truly “irredeemable”? (I used the same adjective to describe Jeff Daniels’ infinitely more despicable character from “The Squid and the Whale.”) His only crime is his borderline solipsism, which we gradually come to see isn’t solipsism at all, but rather a symptom of something much more psychologically and sociologically complicated. Is the film’s final stretch not an explicit indication that a certain corner has been turned, that Raskolnikov is wrapping up his sentence in Siberia while Sonya is putting the vodka on ice for his imminent return?

Mark also seems to have missed much of what makes Florence such a remarkable character. I guess I just don’t see how anybody with a sense of humor or a quantum of patience could find Gerwig’s performance “obnoxious.” Mark writes:

The end performance is so natural and yet whiny, so authentic and yet pretentious it strikes a singularity point that fuses the best and worst of mumblecore performances into a single character.

Strange… I’d hardly characterize Florence as a whiner; her stunned reactions to Greenberg’s verbal abuse imply a personality at once alluringly enigmatic and painfully familiar. If anything, Greenberg is the film’s resident whiner—but unlike a Florence, he possesses the intellectual equipment to kvetch in a way that effectively evokes a great tradition of cinematic shmendriks.

I strongly encourage y’all to catch “Greenberg” before its run at Sundance ends.

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The method of no method

April 5, 2010

Y’all seen “Greenberg” yet? If so, you were probably pretty impressed by Greta Gerwig’s performance as the film’s other protagonist, Florence Marr. Florence is unlike any female character in Noah Baumbach’s oeuvre: she’s neither pissy nor arrogant; she lacks a sense of entitlement, whether in her artistic work or in her social relations; and she doesn’t radiate an aura of cruelty, even one as latent as that of Laura Linney’s character in “The Squid and the Whale.” She’s lost, pure and weirdly virginal—despite her self-shaming gameness to hook up with relative strangers.

Florence is a complex character who works by virtue of the volume and quality of subtle work put into her by Gerwig and Baumbach. The Times’ A.O. Scott seems to agree, and I implore everybody who’s seen “Greenberg” to read his article from last Sunday’s paper; it’s an ode to Gerwig largely comprised of nuggets of intense praise. Exhibit A:

Ms. Gerwig, most likely without intending to be anything of the kind, may well be the definitive screen actress of her generation, a judgment I offer with all sincerity and a measure of ambivalence. She seems to be embarked on a project, however piecemeal and modestly scaled, of redefining just what it is we talk about when we talk about acting.

Hyperbolic as that may seem, Scott could be right. It’ll be very, very interesting to see what Gerwig—and Baumbach, for that matter—does next.

Cleaning house and trying to do nothing

March 24, 2010

Seeing as how I have pretty much nothing substantial to say for myself at the moment, it’s only fair that I direct you toward some things you might find interesting:

1. Check out my esteemed colleague Todd Stevens’ review of Sebastián Silva’s “The Maid,” which is currently enjoying a short run at Sundance Cinemas. I haven’t yet gotten a chance to see this film but Todd seems to have dug it quite a bit. He’s particularly taken with the film’s psychological dimension, which I find somewhat curious given how much I read about its overt Brechtianism. Then again, who says you can’t have it both ways? And it’s always nice to munch on the NY film scene’s leftovers.

2. File this under “Well I’ll be!”—the Badger Herald’s Tony Lewis scored a conference call with Ben Stiller, Noah Baumbach and Jamie Murphy (the LCD Soundsystem mastermind and former Princeton Junction resident). Good show, old chap. In the interest of continuing to fuel the “Greenberg” hype-train (allll abooard), I’ll say the interview is worth a gander, though Tony seems much, much more familiar with Stiller than with Baumbach or even Murphy—which is too bad because “Greenberg,” like all of Baumbach’s “mature” films, is said to be very much the work of an auteur, as demonstrated by Stiller’s comments in the interview.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some last-minute botany studying to do.

All-aboard the “Greenberg” hype-train

March 17, 2010

The weather’s even sweller than it was yesterday, so I’ll keep this post nice and concise. (Besides, don’t you guys have some day-drinking to get to?)

Don’t let the last name fool you: I’m part-Irish, but I ain’t that Irish. Nevertheless, I’ve had my mind on “green” subjects as of late.

In this week’s Village Voice, J. Hoberman reviewed Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg,” which, as you might recall, I’m quite anxious to see when it opens at Sundance Cinemas on 3/26. Jim—if he doesn’t mind me calling him that—seems to dig the film quite a bit, writing more effusively about it than did the New Yorker’s David Denby (whose review was unmistakably positive) earlier this week. The suspense, lads and lasses, is beginning to kill me. Now who wants to go read excerpts from Joyce on the Terrace?

Getting excited about “Greenberg”

March 11, 2010

Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg” is coming to Sundance Cinemas in two weeks (3/26), but it’s never too early to begin conjuring hype, right? Here’s Glenn Kenny’s very enthusiastic response, which says to me that the film is likely everything I hoped it would be.

Kenny:

But because this really is a picture of moments, and a lot of them are still coalescing in me. My initial sense is that these moments are presented as well if not a little better than they’ve ever been in a Baumbach picture, and that hence, Greenberg is very much worth your time.

I counted Baumbach’s “Margot at the Wedding” (2007) among my 50 favorite films of the past decade, so I fully expect “Greenberg” to be a really sad gem.

There’s a pretty clear-cut division in “The Squid and the Whale” (2005) between its sympathetic characters and their utterly unsympathetic counterparts, which made the movie kinda facile insofar as it wasn’t very difficult for the viewer to make up her mind about who was in the wrong in any of the plot’s constituent blowups. “Margot at the Wedding” was a much more indeterminate object, a stubborn work that demanded a great deal of investment from the viewer in exchange for wonderfully obscure dividends. Jean Eustache’s “The Mother and the Whore” (1973) was a central point of reference for “The Squid and the Whale”; wouldn’t it be something if Baumbach reached similar emotional territory with “Greenberg”?

Favorites from the decade that was

January 5, 2010

Fifty fillets of film, alphabetically ordered. Now I can finally get on with my life.

Click here to check out the list/encyclopedia.