The Yes List – Reality Bites Ben Stiller
Each week, The Daily Beast scours the cultural landscape to choose three top picks. This week, Ben Stiller’s slacker movie for fortysomethings, Charles Addams' macabre Manhattan, and an irresistible new novel.
Reality Bites Ben Stiller
Noah Baumbach’s movies ( The Squid & The Whale, Margot At the Wedding) are very particular; they express the struggling of the educated, liberal arts-loving middle classes, who may have a way with words but are emotionally stunted in deep and often surprising ways. His latest, Greenberg, is no exception. Ben Stiller stars as Roger Greenberg, a fortysomething guy who finds himself aimless in life and without a purpose, spending his days building a doghouse and entering into a quirky relationship with his brother’s personal assistant (the wonderful Mumblecore starlet Greta Gerwig, who wrote about her breakout role for The Daily Beast. Though Greenberg is a classic slacker movie, with not much action or adventure, the critics have really taken to Baumbach’s growing pains film. The New Yorker’s David Denby says, “This is tricky, ambiguous material, seemingly better fitted to a short literary novel than to a movie, and it could have gone wrong in a hundred ways, yet Baumbach handles it with great assurance,” while J. Hoberman of the Village Voice notes: “When the time comes, it knocks you out with the subtlest of badda-booms.”
Charles Addams’ Macabre Manhattan
The work of New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams, who died in 1998 at 76, has had a longer life than most pen and ink creations: His Addams Family portraits inspired the classic 1960s television series, two movies, and now, a Broadway musical starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth (opening at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in April). And starting this week he is also being celebrated in a retrospective at the Museum of the City of New York. Charles Addams’ New York features the artist’s oddest cityscapes, punctuated by a touch of the macabre (a woman with a gun, an alien invader, a sinister criminal). Addams’ vision is pure American Gothic—pastoral with something a little “off,” and perhaps that is why it has been so enduring. As MCNY curator Sarah Henry says, “He’s funny because his characters are close to us, and they reflect the dark and the bright side of traditional family values.”
An Irresistible New Novel
Novelist Lisa Grunwald ( The Theory of Everything, Whatever Makes You Happy) has created a charming new orphan to add to the literary pantheon in The Irresistible Henry House. Reminiscent of Garp and Gump, Henry House begins life in the 1940s as a “practice baby”—based on the actual programs in which infants were raised by women in college Home Ec classes—and over the years he grows up to be a Disney animator, work with the Beatles on Yellow Submarine, and fall in and out of love countless times. Entertainment Weekly gives Grunwald’s novel an “A” and raves “Henry is deeply flawed (he learns, for one, to treat women with the same detached impermanence he was conditioned in), but House sweeps along with such page-turning vitality that his story is indeed irresistible.”