"Greenberg" & the Feckless Indie Male

So this weekend I caught Noah Baumbach’s new film Greenberg in a St. Louis theater, the day after I rewatched the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man, which is better, true, but also not really a fair comparison, because who can compete with the Coen Bros? (And A Serious Man would be even better seen at midwestern urban theater, as that’s the background of the film.) But I liked Greenberg and Ben Stiller is good in it, even if it’s not the kind of film you fall in love with: It does make you think. A.O. Scott praises it in a NY Times magazine piece about the Gen-X midlife crisis (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/weekinreview/09aoscott.html?pagewanted=2), which is both accurate and slightly off-target. Why off target? I doubt Baumbach really means a character as distinctive as Greenberg to be emblematic or archetypal. That said, sure, I know guys (and gals, unfortunately) like Greenberg, and usually can’t stand to be around them. But he’s watchable, in his passive/aggressive, shooting-himself-in-the-foot kind of way.  The party scene is worth the movie, when Ben Stiller does coke with a bunch of twentysomethings, complaining about how disconnected they are, when they appear more respectful and well-adjusted than he is. And Greta Gerwig, as the lovable & sad Florence, steals the show.
But Greenberg really made me think of the Feckless Indie Male, a subspecies I noticed often this spring term, in my student fiction: the guy who thinks too much, who doesn’t act, but gets lost in irony and posturing, leading a life of little significance. That’s between the lines of A.O. Scott’s Gen-X rant, though it’s a different generation altogether.

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