Among fans and critics, and perhaps among devout acolytes as well, writer-directors Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach are often compared, sometimes conflated, and maybe even occasionally confused. And with good reason. Aside from the fact that they have collaborated on at least a couple projects, they are also both rather young directors whose most ardent followers inhabit similar spheres; they both bend the loose genres in which they work to similar degrees; they share a similar flair for the creative intermingling of comedy and tragedy; and they have both entered an arena of greater mainstream distribution, or at least awareness, at around the same time.
A great deal more could be said about such claims—to further them or, conversely, to tear them to shreds—and a great deal could be done to differentiate between these directors. However, after seeing Baumbach’s Greenberg a couple days ago, I offer the following discussion prompt:
While Anderson and Baumbach share certain thematic and stylistic tendencies, one could perhaps distill their differences by focusing on the subtly contrasting details in one film by each. Namely, Anderson’s Bottle Rocket opens with a young man being released (and feigning escape) from a mental institution, giving way to a sort of quirky, comedic pseudo-tragedy, while Baumbach’s Greenberg opens with a not-quite-so-young man being released from a mental institution, giving way to a somewhat less quirky and somewhat more dramatic tragicomedy.