Robert Frost famously said, “The only certain freedom’s in departure”. And after viewing a Noah Baumbach film, it seems the director has zealously applied that in his filmmaking ventures! The single-pointed attribute that is prominent in Noah Baumbach’s work is the desperate attempt of characters to unwind the twirling reality of relationships.
On top of that, the confused commingling of situations that stems from immense inner turmoil in their life. The truth of annihilation is also extremely prevalent and visible whether it is in Bernard Berkman’s life (played by Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale), Charlie Barber’s life (played by Adam Driver in Marriage Story), or the Meyerowitz father-son duo (played by Adam Sandler and Dustin Hoffman in The Meyerowitz Stories). The rigid emotional impulses that characters’ exhibit creates a humorous yet pitiable irony. Sometimes, the pacing in his films is sluggish, and at times it’s the zippiest one has ever seen.
The Burden of Breaking Up
The relationship reality – whether it is the pleasantness of being in a partner’s company or the burden of breaking up – is bare in every film of Noah Baumbach. The showcasing of doom in factual aspects of life and the knowingness which surrounds the separation between two characters is done brilliantly by this filmmaker. Viewers get a glimpse of uncertainty as characters in his films usually have a hard time deciding between “code of elegance” and “code of ethics.”
One of the most painful situations shown in his films is in Marriage Story when Charlie (played by Adam Driver) is frustrated in the middle of the meeting with Nora and Nicole (played by Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern) where they are trying to reach a compromise in their divorce. His lawyer (played by Alan Alda) is joking around (after calling him to discuss something in private), totally oblivious of Charlie’s anger. On the other hand, Charlie anxiously looks at the ticking clock. The disbelief in regards to the anticipation of loss, the obliviousness of lawyer, and regret of paying hefty (and unaffordable) fees can be seen on his face. This undeniably creates empathy for Charlie (no wonder Adam Driver got an Academy Award nomination for this role!)
Science of Detachment?
However, what Noah Baumbach shows us is the science of detachment too. And the remarkable consequences of separation and the bravery exhibited by characters of its acceptance. It indeed tells that in reel life (and maybe in real life?) there doesn’t exist an absolute standard where the choices of an individual can be judged. All in all, the aesthetic achievement is incomparable in his films. Usually, the reactions of characters have a pensive sadness and unmotivated tone of expression. Yes, that’s why the actors love to work with this director. Also, the poetic texture in dialogues, the background music, and sequences is noteworthy. How about the hip-hop dance sequence and amalgamation of two new friends Josh Srebnick (played by Ben Stiller) and Jamie Massey (played by Adam Driver) in While We’re Young? One has to see this film to really understand what happens between these friends in the climax despite this great bonding as shown in this sequence.
Another vital element is the spectrum of lost euphoria and nostalgia that Noah taps into his screenplays. Be it the fantastic party scene in Frances Ha or the sequence where Adam Driver sings Sondheim’s ‘Being Alive’.
The revelation of failed human relationships is done subtly yet quite discernibly. One thing is for sure; his films also portray traces of lingering irony and awe around his artistic adroitness. The style and substance of the background score, composition of scenes, color palette selection in his films evoke a certain mood and gives an eminent veritable vibe.