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. Arrogant, but afflicted by paralyzing insecurities, he sits in his brother's house, writing crackpot letters of complaint to various companies whose products and services have pricked his majestic annoyance.
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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