Talking Movies

November 30, 2019

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XXIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michelle Quance/VARIETY/Shutterstock (10404629aa)
Noah Baumbach and Adam Driver
Variety Studio at Toronto International Film Festival, Presented by AT&T, Day 3, Canada – 08 Sep 2019

Contours of the Decade: Noah Baumbach

In the continuing struggle to perhaps impose some sort of order and coherence on a decade of cinema in time to produce a Top 10 list at the end of the year it’s interesting to consider how Noah Baumbach has fared as director. Greenberg, Frances Ha, While We’re Young, Mistress America, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Marriage Story. Six films as writer/director is a pretty good decade’s work by anybody’s estimate, and more so when you realise that only one of those six is not top drawer. It’s been a decade of collaboration, four films with Adam Driver in some capacity, two films with Greta Gerwig as co-writer and star as well as one with her in a supporting role, and three films with Ben Stiller rediscovering his talent. Perhaps most interestingly while critics seemed to shape a narrative that, after the exhaustingly abrasive Greenberg, Baumbach’s films had been given soul by Gerwig, that demonstrably was not the case. Even after While We’re Young it was clear Baumbach was more optimistic even without Gerwig than he had been previously. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) made clear that in fact the change in Baumbach was one of maturity. Where Gerwig without Baumbach stuttered with the cliched and sour Ladybird, Baumbach without Gerwig was operating on a new plane. Compare the fathers played by Jeff Daniels in 2005 and Dustin Hoffman in 2017 and you will be struck by the notion that this is essentially the same character, but now viewed by an older artist with a correspondingly more mature and therefore forgiving eye.

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