Mutter-core

This is a review of the new Noah Baumbuch flick Greenberg, from Focus Features.  Baumbuch does the lensing and shares story credit with his wife, the actress Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Just yesterday a gentleman whose film acumen (yeah, I had to look that one up too) I admire wondered what ‘mumblecore’ is.

People!  Mumbleocre!  Do we not read the same film geek web sites?  Mumblecore is Andrew Bujalski, Funny Ha Ha, South By Southwest, 682 films made by 2,922 people for $3 in 18 days.  Mumblecore is real guys and beautiful girls with no make-up saying pretentious, over-educated white people stuff!  Mumblecore is here and here and here!  Get with it, people!  Mumblecore!

The problem, of course, is that mumblecore cinema is interminable to sit through.  Oh, of course, one of the 842 flicks that Joe Swanberg has made in the last 10 minutes (did we lose anyone there?  Hello, readers?!) has got to be not bad.  But outside of critics with pale skin and back acne who live in Austin and La-La-Land, has anyone seen these mumblecore flicks?  Because I have, and they’re just not that interesting, outside of the pretty girls taking their clothes off every other scene (gotta love filmmaking… the more things change…).  They are the reality television if independent film:  Bad lighting, cheap to make, occasionally interesting, very voyeuristic.

Now, Noah Baumbach’s new flick Greenberg is not, per se, ‘mumblecore.’  It features a bona fide movie star (Ben Stiller, who’s apparently in talks for the Avatar prequel).  It comes from the supremely gifted Mr. Baumbach, who made the infinitely better The Squid and the Whale and co-wrote the fantastic Fantastic Mr. Fox.  It features the defining actress of her generation, Greta Gerwig, who at the tender age of 26, gives the mumblecore movement it’s Streep performance, and, yes, takes her top off.  (Mumblecore!  It’s how it’s survived!)

But here’s the thing:  Though it was shot in my old L.A. neighborhood (literally, same post office, same streets–  a very surreal experience when you’re watching it in beautiful, downtown Edgewater, NJ) and features a chuckle-worthy line or two about L.A., it’s not very good.  The protagonist is extremely, extremely difficult to relate to.  The best that I can muster for the flick (apart, again, from a lovely performance by Gerwig in which she takes off her top several times) is a very frank encounter with abortion.  So, as Bill Murray, might say, It’s got that going for it.

WAy back in 1995 Baumbach’s first flick Kicking and Screaming was mumblecore way before mumblecore.  And it’s a much better flick than this one.  Thanks, mumblecore.

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