From “Kicking and Screaming” to “Mistress America” and so many classics in-between, Noah Baumbach has been a leading voice in American independent film for two full decades.
Now, with the release of his latest film “While We’re Young,” a generational comedy co-starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, only a month away, A24 has set up screenings across the United States to commemorate Baumbach’s remarkable filmography. The event is titled “Growing Up Baumbach,” as the selected films explore the paradoxes of being in high school, the liberation of college, the confusion of young adulthood and, finally, the reflection that comes with adulthood.
The four films included are “Kicking and Screaming,” Baumbach’s debut which will celebrate its 20th anniversary; “The Squid and the Whale,” his Oscar-nominated effort which premiered 10 years ago; “Frances Ha,” his widely-acclaimed black-and-white film from 2012; and the upcoming “While We’re Young,” many screenings of which Baumbach will personally attend.
The films will screen in 16 cities from March 4 to April 23. Below are synopses of each film, courtesy of the New York Film Festival:
“Kicking and Screaming” (1995) — Lionsgate
Post-graduation angst is what drives this smart romantic comedy, Noah Baumbach’s directorial debut. Four young men try to chart their futures with varying degrees of uneasiness while their formidable girlfriends move ahead with considerably more confidence. Baumbach’s vision of the tremendous anxiety associated with newly established adulthood is embodied by a top-notch cast, including the likes of Josh Hamilton, Elliott Gould, Parker Posey, Chris Eigeman, and Eric Stoltz (several of whom would go on to become Baumbach regulars). As they move in small concentric circles, Baumbach allows us to get to know and be amused by his affable characters, ultimately yielding a strong sense of kinship with them. An NYFF33 selection.
“The Squid and the Whale” (2005) — Samuel Goldwyn Films
In his Oscar-nominated third feature, director Noah Baumbach scores a triumph with an autobiographical coming-of-age story about a teenager whose writer parents are divorcing. The father (Jeff Daniels) and mother (Laura Linney) duke it out in half-civilized, half-savage fashion, while their two sons (Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline) adapt in different ways, shifting allegiances between parents. The film is squirmy-funny and nakedly honest about the rationalizations and compensatory snobbisms of artistic failure as well as the conflicted desires of adolescents for sex and status. In detailing bohemian-bourgeois life in brownstone Brooklyn, Baumbach is spot-on. Everyone proceeds from good intentions and acts rather badly, in spite or because of their manifest intelligence. Fulfilling the best traditions of the American independent film, this quirky, wisely written feature explores the gulf between sexes, generations, art and commerce, Brooklyn and Manhattan. An NYFF43 selection.
“Frances Ha” (2012) — IFC Films
Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York, but she doesn’t really have an apartment. Frances is an apprentice for a dance company, but shes not really a dancer. Frances has a best friend named Sophie, but they aren’t really speaking anymore. Frances throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. Frances wants so much more than she has but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness. “Frances Ha” is a modern comic fable that explores New York, friendship, class, ambition, failure, and redemption. (IFC)
“While We’re Young” (2015) — A24
In this intergenerational comedy of manners, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play Josh and Cornelia Srebnick, a happily married, middle-aged NYC couple that has recently come to terms with their inability to start a family. When Josh, a cerebral filmmaker, attempts to overcome a recent artistic blockage through a new friendship with impulsive hipsters Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), he and Cornelia find themselves neglecting friends their own age in favor of spending more time with their uninhibited Brooklynite counterparts, who are nearly 20 years their juniors. While We’re Young is a moving and frequently hilarious portrait of a marriage confronted by enviable youth, as well as an exploration of how success and happiness mean radically different things to us at different points in our lives. An NYFF52 selection. An A24 release.
Click here to see the list of cities participating, and specific dates for film screenings. The event’s official poster is included below.