Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, Mr. Jealousy is the story of a writer whose new relationship with a woman is shaken when he learns that her old boyfriend is a famous writer. Filled with jealousy, he follows the man as he pretends to be another person as part of a therapy group. The film explores a man whose insecurities try to have him be compared to his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Starring Eric Stoltz, Annabella Sciorra, Chris Eigeman, Carlos Jacott, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Brian Kerwin, Bridget Fonda, and Peter Bogdanovich. Mr. Jealousy is a witty adult-comedy from Noah Baumbach.
Aspiring writer/part-time teacher Lester Grimm (Eric Stoltz) has just been introduced to Ramona Ray (Annabella Sciorra) by their friends Vince (Carlos Jacott) and Lucretia (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). After a few successful dates, Lester and Ramona have become a couple as they’re both excited for Vince and Lucretia’s upcoming nuptials. When Ramona divulges her own life to Lester that included a brief affair with a newly-famous writer named Dashiell Frank (Chris Eigeman) during her days in college. Lester reluctantly reads Frank’s new book as he later spots him walking into a group therapy session where Lester accidentally walks into the building as he becomes part of the group therapy under Vince’s name.
Headed by Dr. Poke (Peter Bogdanovich), Lester and Dashiell are among the people in the group of Lester pretends to be Vince as he takes shot at Dashiell’s insecurities while Lester discusses some of Vince’s problems. Though Vince was reluctant to have Lester divulge information, the two do trade secrets about what is happening although nothing secretive is revealed in the therapy sessions. Suddenly, Lester and Dashiell become friends as they discuss their own issues to each other though Lester remains under the name of Vince. After Ramona revealed to Lester about meeting a former boyfriend named Stephen (Brian Kerwin), Lester becomes confused on whether that the woman Dashiell wrote about is Ramona. Vince decides to join the group therapy as a British man named Leo revealing Lester’s jealousy issues to the group making Lester feeling very uncomfortable.
When Ramona becomes suspicious about Lester’s therapy sessions and why he lied about missing a date. She and Lucretia starts to follow Lester and Vince in the therapy sessions where Ramona meets Dashiell as Dashiell later talks about meeting Ramona at a group session leading to a major blow-up for all involved.
The film is about a man with jealousy issues after learning about his new girlfriend’s former relationship with a man that is now a famous writer. Wanting to know this man and see how he can better himself for this woman, he takes part in a group therapy session where things become complicated as his best friend suddenly gets involved to further complicate things. It’s a film where Noah Baumbach explores the world of jealousy as he follows Lester Grimm in this journey as the story is told by a narrator (Noah Baumbach) who divulges into Lester’s past as well as Ramona’s own quirks. The screenplay features characters that all seem to have it together while Lester is the one trying to get past his jealousy issues only to go back into old habits. Largely because he’s faced moments in his young life where he’s been dumped or been unable to express his feelings towards another girl.
In Ramona, she becomes this ideal woman that Lester might feel that she is the one until she reveals all of these lovers she had including Dashiell. This would prompt him to find out about Dashiell where he accidentally follows him as he learns about this man while pretending to be someone else. Yet, Dashiell is revealed to be someone who is having his own issues about himself and admitting that he wasn’t a great person in the past. This would lead to Lester to finally open a bit as he gets to know Dashiell as it would only complicate his jealousy issues and his relationship with Ramaona. It’s a script that is a comedy of manners though at times, it does play off as a bit pompous as the characters are quite high-brow.
Baumbach’s direction is straightforward in terms of its compositions as a lot of is shot in New York City. Many of the compositions in the way Baumbach directs his actors in a frame and have the camera move around to be in the center of these group therapy sessions. The film opens with a prologue of sorts about Lester’s life as the scenes are repeated frame for frame but played by Vince when he plays Leo for the therapy session. Baumbach’s approach to humor is more about the situation and character rather than gags. While the film has a lot of references to films and high art, there is an element of pretentiousness to it that makes the film feel a bit smug at times. Despite the few flaws it has, Baumbach does create a very compelling romantic comedy-drama.
Cinematographer Steven Bernstein does some pretty good work with the photography that is very straightforward for a lot of the interior and exterior shots of NYC and the apartments that the characters live in. Editor J. Kathleen Gibson does some excellent work with the film‘s stylish cutting employing lots of rhythmic cuts, montages, and jump-cuts to play with the film‘s easy-going pacing. Production designer Anne Stuhler, along with set decorator Candis Heiland and art director Roswell Hamrick, does some nice work with the apartments to contrast the different worlds of the more middle-class Lester and the more posh Dashiell.
Costume designer Katherine Jean Bryant does some wonderful work with the costumes that includes some very stylish clothing for Ramona. Sound mixer Jeff Pullman does terrific work with the sound from the intimate moments of the therapy sessions to more raucous moments in a dinner scene. The film’s score by Robert Een is a wonderful mixture of jazz and reggae to play up the humor of the film while the score features some folk-driven pieces performed by the dream-pop band Luna. Assembling the film’s soundtrack is music supervisor William Ewart as he creates a soundtrack that features Georges Delerue, Harry Chapin, and Leonard Cohen.
The casting by Todd M. Thaler is excellent for the ensemble that is created as it includes Eddie Kaye Thomas as a Spanish-language student, Noah and Nico Baumbach as a couple of former dates of Ramona, John Lehr as a friend of Vince and Lester, Brian Kerwin as an ex-boyfriend of Ramona in Stephen, and Bridget Fonda as Dashiell’s stammering girlfriend Irene. Legendary filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich is superb as the very helpful Dr. Poke who leads the group therapy sessions that Lester, Dashiell, and Vince attend. Marianne-Jean Baptiste is very good as Vince’s fiancée Lucretia who wonders about Vince’s comments about therapy. Carlos Jacott is great as Lester’s friend Vince who is interested about Lester’s portrayal for the therapy sessions while he would sport a wonderful British accent as Lester’s doppelganger Leo.
Chris Eigeman is excellent as Dashiell, Ramona’s ex-boyfriend who tries to deal with his own issues as a writer while befriending Lester in the group therapy. Annabella Sciorra is lovely as the superstitious Ramona who tries to deal with Lester’s behavior as their relationship starts to progress. Finally, there’s Eric Stoltz in a remarkable performance as the confused Lester whose jealousy issues have him questioning himself while befriending Dashiell that would further his anxiety over his relationship with Ramona.
Mr. Jealousy is a very good film from Noah Baumbach that features stellar performances from Eric Stoltz, Annabella Sciorra, and Chris Eigeman. While it’s an imperfect film that might be too-high brow for some viewers. It is still a quite engaging comedy that is very smart in its portrayal of young 30-something dealing with love. In the end, Mr. Jealousy is a charming romantic-comedy from Noah Baumbach.
Noah Baumbach Films: Kicking & Screaming - Highball - The Squid & the Whale - Margot at the Wedding - Greenberg - Frances Ha - While We're Young - Mistress America - De Palma - The Auteurs #41: Noah Baumbach
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