It’s hard to believe it has been over 20 years since Noah Baumbach burst onto the indie cinema scene with Kicking and Screaming and now he is joining the ranks of directors releasing movies onto Netflix with The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) on Friday 13 October. So let’s look back on his previous ten movies as a writer and director, starting with…
Kicking and Screaming (1995) – Not to be confused with the football movie starring Will Farrell, a 25 year old Noah Baumbach started his movie career following highfalutin college graduates who are waiting for their lives to begin. Early signs of the style that Baumbach will adopt are on show here with a plot that feels very loose and allows us to follow a group of well educated, well read and spoken young characters who prefer to live within their own bubble. A very underrated movie from the 90s but the start of a highly promising career.
Mr. Jealousy (1997) – You’ve probably never seen this Baumbach movie. It’s had the sort of treatment that George Lucas would dream of for the Star Wars Holiday Special but this is highly enjoyable. Eric Stoltz joins up with Baumbach in this comedy that resembles a good farce episode of Frasier full of misunderstandings, unrequited feelings and highly quotable as Stoltz becomes jealous of his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend, a successful author and goes undercover at his group therapy sessions believing that they’re having an affair.
Highball (1997) – Noah Baumbach is the writer and director of this movie but then disowned this release and it’s now credited to director Ernie Fusco and writer Jesse Carter, so I have no idea why this on a list of Baumbach movies.
The Squid and the Whale (2005) – After a long break, Baumbach hit incredible success with this movie, earning an academy award nomination for original screenplay with this semi-autobiographical story about two boys dealing their parent’s break up. Filled with highly educated and articulate characters that are socially unaware, those early movie ideas of Baumbach come to fruition here to great accolade.
Margot at the Wedding (2007) – Opening to mixed reviews, Nicole Kidman visits her sister ahead of her wedding to the slobby Jack Black and finds her self-control start to fall apart. Features many of Baumbach’s familiar traits in examining broken and razor-sharp families, the characters here didn’t connect with me, coming across as unlikable with few redeeming qualities.
Greenberg (2010) – Ben Stiller joins the Baumbach acting troupe and breaks from the East Coast as Stiller’s character goes to Los Angeles to house sit for his brother. Reviewed well, but didn’t connect with the box office and came up short. Greenberg isn’t the easiest of characters to connect with, but Stiller gives a reflective and touching performance that will connect with audiences.
Frances Ha (2012) – Without a doubt my favourite movie of the past five years and Baumbach’s finest hour! Joining forces with Greta Gerwig again, they co-wrote this story about a dancer failing to make her breakthrough and going through her quarter-life crisis. Filled with the usual highly articulate characters and narrative drift, Gerwig delivers such an impressive performance that truly launched her career and is one of the most relatable characters in a Baumbach movie.
While We’re Young (2014) – The two threads of the younger and middle-aged generations that Baumbach has been playing with in his career come together in this culture clash that captures the sense of nostalgia that both hold. While We’re Young didn’t quite click for me the first time, with what feels like a sudden change in its third act, but on repeat viewings, what Baumbach is trying to do becomes clearer and is one of his most accessible and mainstream works.
Mistress America (2014) – Gerwig and Baumbach reunite for the third time and lighting strikes again between the pair in this screwball comedy about two soon-to-be step sisters who meet in New York and end up in a series of hijinks. The dialogue flows and is so sharp. Gerwig and Baumbach as a script writing team work so well and Gerwig’s touch as an actress and a writer helps create another unforgettable female lead that fits in with the world that Baumbach loves to explore.
Do you have a favourite Noah Baumbach film? Let us know about it in the comments section below.