The Noah Baumbach Likability Index: Oh No, Margot!
Unless you're Armond White, you're probably pretty excited to see Noah Baumbach's latest film, Greenberg. In the sad-eyed comedy, Ben Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, an unctuous New Yorker who transplants temporarily to Los Angeles to housesit for his absent brother (a hilarious Chris Messina), build a dog house and, hopefully, work out his many psychological issues. Of the latter problem, it helps when a girl who looks like Greta Gerwig is around to be a shoulder to cry on (or, in the case of Greenberg, irrationally yell at and have sex with). It's being called a career highlight for Stiller--he's still better in Zoolander, but whatever--but where does Roger Greenberg rate on the list of unlikable characters created by Noah Baumbach? To the tale of the tape!
Steve Zissou, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Mr. Fox, Fantastic Mr. Fox
Baumbach only co-wrote these two Wes Anderson films, but his mark on the lead characters cannot be underestimated. Steve Zissou is such a prick that he pulls a gun on a pregnant reporter--you never even saw Royal Tenenbaum do something like that. Meanwhile, Mr. Fox might look all cute and cuddly, but he steals with a devil-may-care attitude, treats his son like garbage for most of the film and almost gets everyone killed because of his hubris. That said, since Bill Murray and George Clooney play them respectively, their likability quotient remains high.
Likability: 7 out of 10.
Roger Greenberg, Greenberg
Baumbach certainly has a thing for naming his projects after the main characters, doesn't he? Like Steve Zissou and Mr. Fox, the actor and not so much the actions save Roger Greenberg from being completely irredeemable. No matter how depressive and rambling, Ben Stiller is still Ben Stiller. He's likable!
Likability: 6 out of 10.
Bernard and Walt Berkman, The Squid and The Whale
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And so The Squid and The Whale gives us Baumbach's interpretation of his young adulthood and the picture isn't pretty. While it's not all that surprising to see Baumbach treat the stand-in for his dad (novelist Jonathan Baumbach) with such contempt, it always felt odd that he had similar anger towards his younger self. After all, say what you will about Jeff Daniels' Bernard Berkman, but you'd be hard pressed to find a bigger jerk than Jesse Eisenberg's Walt.
Likability: 4 out of 10.
Margot, Margot at the Wedding
Say hello to the only movie to ever give me a migraine headache. When Armond White wrote, "You look at Noah Baumbach's work and you see he's an asshole," he must have been talking about Margot at the Wedding. Besides being completely unnerving, irrational and downright stupid, Nicole Kidman's Margot is, for lack of a better term, an asshole.
Likability: 0 out of 10.