What are the most significant themes that are focused on by filmmaker Noah Baumbach?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Independent filmmaker Noah Baumbach, born in Brooklyn, New York, has written and directed several quirky films, several of which are comedies of manner, and others which are comedy-dramas. With reference to the films that have been tagged here on this question, namely, Frances Ha and Greenberg, the themes of these movies are that of the search for self-authorship. In Frances Ha, for instance, Frances is a twenty-seven-year-old dancer who mimics the "self-conscious New York navel gazing" that Linda Holmes of National Public Radio characterizes the young who come to the "Big Apple" to become successful. Frantically, she tries to fit in and desperately grabs at opportunities, only to fail. But, what makes her unique is that she nevertheless maintains her insouciance. 

That this movie spoofs the frenetic searchers for success in New York is evinced in this dialogue from the movie:

Young man at dinner with her: "What do you do?"

Frances:                                  "It's hard to explain."

                                               "Why is that?"

Frances:                                  "Because I don't really do it."

In Greenberg, several of the characters seem neurotic and are searching for meaning in their lives in a comedic way, however. Although a more difficult character to like than Frances, Roger Greenberg, played by Ben Stiller develops into a representation of what many New Yorkers can become in their antic search for themselves in such a fast-paced and undefined world. Roger is recovering from a nervous breakdown, but instead of remaining at home while the rest of his family is on a trip to Vietnam, he reunites with former band members who resent him for turning down a lucrative contract, then, he engages in a on-and-off romantic interlude with the dogsitter. 

While Baumbach's characters are not Everyman, they may well be every other one in the genre of Comedy of Manners in modern New York City.