As the new movie, Greenberg, was starting at the Arclight in Los Angeles last Saturday, a woman yapped loudly on her phone, obviously talking to a babysitter to check in on her child, Hannah. "OH YEAH AND DID HANNAH EAT ALL HER DINNER? AND THEN WHAT DID YOU AND HANNAH DO? WHERE IS HANNAH NOW?"
At that point, I muttered, "Hannah's dead."
But it's not my fault! Even though it didn't begin yet, I contend that Greenberg made me do it!
A few seconds into seeing the trailer for this new Ben Stiller comedy a couple months ago, I thought to myself, "Oh my god, this film looks horrible." But then the trailer revealed that it was written and directed by Noah Baumbach, one of my favorite filmmakers, and I immediately changed my mind. It's difficult to capture the sensibility and the humor of Baumbach's work in a two-minute compilation of out-of-context clips.
Kicking and Screaming, Mr. Jealousy, The Squid and the Whale, and the unfairly derided Margot at the Wedding are all on my list of favorite movies of all time. Baumbach often gets accused of creating seriously unlikeable characters (especially in those latter two films), but I personally have never felt that he lacks compassion for them.
Some artists have contempt for their characters and their audience (Michael Haneke, anyone?), but Baumbach is not in that camp. While he doesn't gaze upon his tragically and sometimes frustratingly flawed characters with, say, a loving eye, he does approach them with an understanding one.
Ben Stiller plays a—yup—unlikeable misanthrope, recently released from a mental hospital, who is even mean to the young, sexy woman who might lead to his redemption. And I know this might sound cheesy, but there's a little Greenberg in all of us. It makes us mutter things like, "Hannah's dead," at the movie theater.
On a final note, again, don't believe the trailer. This film is funny, funny, funny.