Mr. Jealousy: Baumbach Arrives

Mr. Jealousy: Baumbach Arrives

While Noah Baumbch’s Kicking and Screaming (1995) came off as a frank depiction of how dudes talk to each other – note the various references to beating off once a day – the overall tone of that film was one of the minor leagues. Baumbach had everything that would go into his career, eventually making him a downer success. But was during his third film, the 1997 Mr. Jealousy that all the clever interwoven stories exert their dominance.

Granted, simple maturity and topical material in the scripts can be figured as reason to laud one over the other. But even with the dick and fart jokes all but absent from Jealousy there’s still an immature quality to the basic premise that aligns with the most childlike amongst us.

Disguising himself by using a friend’s name, Lester enters group therapy in order to better acquaint himself with his girlfriend’s ex-lover. The meetings become contentious, but wind up bringing the two men together – albeit under the guise of a bold faced lie. With that going on, though, Lester still has to conduct himself normally while in the company of his girlfriend.

And while she isn’t ever dismissive of Lester’s inability to find proper employment, she does pretty frequently talk up her ex and his burgeoning writing career. It’s honestly a situation similar to something most have experienced at one time or another. Baumbach, though, is able to coax out some impulses that normal folks wouldn’t ever act upon in order to spice up what would otherwise be a pretty bland romantic comedy.

Keeping in those lines, Lester and his girlfriend call it a day after she figures out what’s actually going on, leaving Lester as bummed out as he would have been if the whole thing would have fallen apart organically. Whatever the case, there’s a fair amount of fucking behind another person’s back, the jealousy that goes along with it and all the trust issues on can fit into a film that clocks in at under two hours.

Did Mr. Jealousy make Baumbauch a star? Nope, but it did certainly work to solidify a style and dour approach to film making that the director, to a certain extent, follows today – that’s why Jealousy doesn’t seem too far detached from fair like Greenberg. Perhaps as a result of his marriage to Jennifer Jason Leigh, there’ll be some sunny-shiny efforts off into the future. We’ll hafta wait to see.