May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
April 2, 2009
Noah Baumbach inspired an enthusiastic following with Kicking and Screaming, a laugh-out-loud comedy about post-college doldrums and slackers full of wry, quotable humor. The film remains a bit of a cult favorite, and the recent boost of a Criterion edition helped bring it back into view after the arrival of the identically titled, disposable Will Ferrell comedy.
Then Baumbach vanished for a decade and came back with the darker, excruciating divorce comedy The Squid and the Whale, which was impressive but the laughs came harder and the film’s sobering meditation on the plight of children in a disintegrating family made the thought of revisiting the film a bit hard to accept.
As if slipping deeper and deeper into a pit of cynicism and contempt, he then offered Margot at the Wedding, which shoved viewers’ noses into so much appalling behavior, so many moments of humiliation and degradation, that I felt like I needed to wash my eyes and ears out when it was over. Great performances? Sure. Strong writing? Yes. But for this moviegoer, it felt a bit like paying to pick through people’s dirty laundry.
Today’s news that Baumbach has cast Ben Stiller in the lead of his next film makes me hopeful that he’ll find his next film will regain some of the levity that made his first film a joy to revisit many times. IMDB is calling the film Greenberg, but today’s press release says it’s untitled.
Here’s a bit from the press release:
NEW YORK, April 2, 2009 – Production began last week in Los Angeles on the untitled film starring Ben Stiller for writer/director Noah Baumbach … Scott Rudin, an Academy Award winner as producer of No Country for Old Men, and Jennifer Jason Leigh are producing the movie, to which Focus Features holds worldwide rights. Focus CEO James Schamus made the announcement today.
Mr. Baumbach has written the original screenplay from a story conceived by Ms. Leigh and himself. At a crossroads in his life, Roger Greenberg (Mr. Stiller) ends up housesitting at his brother’s home in Los Angeles. There, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with his brother’s assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig of Hannah Takes the Stairs), an aspiring singer. Florence and Greenberg’s encounters lead to an uncertain and wonderfully vulnerable courtship.
Rhys Ifans, soon to be seen in The Boat That Rocked, plays Greenberg’s friend Ivan. The supporting cast includes Mark Duplass (of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival success Humpday), Brie Larson (of the hit series United States of Tara), and Juno Temple (of Focus’ award-winning Atonement); Ms. Leigh will also costar in the film.
Mr. Schamus said, “It’s a privilege and a pleasure to finally be making a movie with Scott, Jennifer and Noah, and one that will showcase Ben as an actor. This script has the hallmarks of Noah’s best work, and then some; heart and soul interlaced with biting wit. Filmgoers worldwide will find themselves emotionally engaged by and with these splendidly realized characters.”
Jeffrey Overstreet watches far too many movies, writes film reviews and two weekly columns for ChristianityTodayMovies.com, maintains the Web site LookingCloser.org, contributes to Paste Magazine, and is at work on a series of novels. He works at Seattle Pacific University.