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Kicking and Screaming
Noah Baumbach USA, 1995
Without the guilelessness of Before Sunrise, Baumbach’s film uses its cultural references in a more pointedly sardonic manner. Whereas there’s something indescribably beautiful about Céline and Jessie’s stabs at defining themselves, in the far more self-critical Kicking and Screaming, the characters’ literary allusions (to Kundera, to Kafka, to Plato and Aristotle) reflect little more than their need to impose their intellect on others.
September 24, 2012
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That dynamic—between a writer writing what he knows and an audience seeing itself on the screen—can lead to insufferable movies. But Baumbach avoids self-indulgent banality by steering clear of the pandering that torpedoes most generational statements. You get the sense that he’s only trying to realize what’s in his head, not what he thinks we’d like to see. His movie doesn’t pretend to dispense truths for its demographic, and it ends up being all the more truthful for it.
September 01, 2006
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Baumbach’s gift for crafting characters out of flesh and blood (such as Eric Stoltz’s perpetual student Chet) gives the film an associative realism, an I-know-these-people familiarity, which helps partially offset their irksomeness. And though his dialogue is often too pleased with its own cleverness, his script’s marriage of the literate and the lowbrow never comes across as excessively contrived…
August 16, 2006
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What ultimately saves the dialogue, in my view, are the lovely performances Baumbach coaxes out of his actors, all of whom tend to treat the witticisms as material to play against rather than simply deliver. Baumbach said that Jean Renoir is his favorite director, and there’s a genuine quirky curiosity about people in this movie that validates this taste — a desire to move beyond the characters’ cover stories.
November 10, 1995
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