A writer and director who, with two films, established himself as a disciple of the Whit Stillman School of Well-Heeled Post-Modern Post-Collegiate Anxiety, Noah Baumbach emerged as one of the more talented and literate young directors of the 1990s.
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The son of Georgia Brown, a film critic for the Village Voice, and Jonathan Baumbach, a novelist and film critic for The Partisan Review, Baumbach began writing and directing at a young age, first earning awards for his work during his senior year at Midwood High School. A native of Brooklyn, NY, he went on to attend Vassar, where he met Carlos Jacott, an actor who would appear in all of the director's films.
Baumbach made his screenwriting and directorial debut in 1995 with Kicking and Screaming. An ensemble comedy starring Eric Stoltz, Olivia D'Abo, and Josh Hamilton, it focused on the growing pains of a group of graduates struggling to make the transition from undergraduate life to the real world. The film garnered a warm critical reception and became something of an art house success, paving the way for Baumbach's next feature, the 1997 Mr. Jealousy. Whereas Kicking and Screaming won over critics with its brand of wry neurotics, Mr. Jealousy earned a merely lukewarm reception, and was cited by a number of critics as being weighed down by a saggy narrative and annoying characters. However, the film's central performers -- Stoltz, Chris Eigeman, and Annabella Sciorra -- all earned positive notices for their work, which led a number of reviewers to praise Baumbach's facility with actors.
Baumbach followed Mr. Jealousy with Highball (2000), a barely released drama that reunited him with Stoltz, Sciorra, and Eigeman. In 2004, he co-wrote The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with Wes Anderson before releasing the semi-autobiographical The Squid and the Whale in 2005. Following two young boys dealing with their parents' impending divorce in 1980s Brooklyn, the film starred Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney as the parents and earned Baumbach an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
His next film, Margot at the Wedding (2007), starred Nicole Kidman as the titular Margot and Baumbach's then-wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh, as her sister who's getting married. Baumbach then teamed back up with Anderson to write 2009's stop-motion Fantastic Mr. Fox. His next two features, 2010's Greenberg and 2012's Frances Ha, both starred indie darling Greta Gerwig.
In addition to his other projects as a director, he kept busy as a writer, penning a series of short stories for the New Yorker. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi