Secret Lives by ProQuest

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									                            Screen


                            Rand Richards Cooper
                            Secret	Lives
                            ‘GreenBerG’ & ‘City islAnd’
                                        Recently I checked in again
                                          with two directors whose
                                           films earned praise in the
                                           past. Noah Baumbach made
                                           a name for himself with The
                                           Squid and the Whale, a pithy
                                         study in domestic pathology
                                      that traced a family’s miseries
                            to the black hole of narcissism and rage
                            inhabited by the father, a failed writer.
                            Baumbach’s new movie, Greenberg, ex-
                            plores similar terrain, charting the tra-
                            vails of a forty-year-old carpenter and
                            ex–rock musician, Roger Greenberg (Ben
                            Stiller), who returns to his L.A. stomp-
                            ing grounds to housesit for his wealthy,
                            vacationing brother and family.
                               Greenberg has suffered a recent            Contagious unease
                            breakdown, and he exudes the nervous
                            spaciness of the walking wounded. “I’ve       and paranoid, or just narcissistic and        sympathy. “He seems vulnerable,” Flor-
                            been trying to do nothing,” he tells old      selfish? The film itself has the structure    ence explains to her best friend, who
                            friends who ask what he’s been up to.         of a romantic comedy, but scene after         keeps telling her to run away from Green-
                            Still resented by his former bandmates        scene delivers jolts of ugly behavior on      berg as fast as she can: “Hurt people hurt
                            for having ruined their chance at a record    the part of our protagonist, much of it       people.” True, but a tough hook to hang
                            contract fifteen years earlier (he didn’t     aimed at Florence (Greta Gerwig), his         this kind of movie on. In The Squid and
                            want to deal with the big record com-         brother’s personal assistant, a sweetly       the Whale, the singlemindedness of the
                            panies and their BS, he insists), Green-      passive twenty-something upon whom            father’s anger siphoned off the film’s
                            berg is trying to figure out how his life     Greenberg fastens, with all the romantic      tragic potential and reduced him to a
                            went off the rails. Arrogant, but afflicted   nicety of a junkyard dog. There’s a half-     vain, embittered buffoon. Greenberg suf-
                            by paralyzing insecurities, he sits in his    amusing, Being There kind of absurdity        fers the same fate, and leaves a viewer
                            brother’s house, writing crackpot letters     in the prospect of Millennial Angelenos       feeling—well, trapped and fidgety.
                            of complaint to various companies whose       who admire Greenberg’s anomie and view


                                                                                                                        T
                            products and services have pricked his        him as a lifestyle guru. “I respect you,”              he writer-director Raymond De
                            majestic annoyance.                           says Florence, “for doing nothing and                  Felitta is developing a niche as
                               In the background lurk the sort of fam-    being so cool about it.”                               a maker of outer-borough com-
                            ily issues that were up-front in Squid—a         Roger Greenberg has been proclaimed        edies, funny and heartfelt stories of lives
                            passing jab from Greenberg’s hostile          the role that Stiller was born to play, and   playing out in little-noticed corners of
                  
								
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