If you're familiar with the work of Max Greenfield, you probably know him as the the super-neurotic, playboy-wannabe Schmidt on Fox's Zooey Deschanel vehicle New Girl. On that show, he manages to be the butt of most of the jokes without becoming a comic foil. He's memorable weird and, thanks to Greenfield's unfailing commitment to the gag, weirdly believable. It's a star-making role and Greenfield is very much on the make. This summer he's in both the much-anticipated David Wain romantic comedy parody, They Came Together, starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, and About Alex, a dramedy about a group of friends who come together after one of them has a suicide attempt. His character in the latter movie looks extremely familiar.
In Alex, Greenfield plays an argumentative, intellectual type that seems to share a lot of traits with Michael Gold, the horny magazine editor Jeff Goldbum played in The Big Chill, that 1983 movie about a group of friends reuniting after a friend's suicide. The haircuts and glasses are similar. The air of wounded self-righteousness is similar. The appeal is similar: Greenfield's Josh is, like Goldblum's Michael, a charismatic asshole. Put another way, Greenfield is entering Dr. Ian Malcom territory. That's good news for moviegoers, who have been treated to a number of memorable Goldblum performances over the years: The Fly, Igby Goes Down, The Great White Hype. In every movie, the now-61-year-old Pennsylvania-native delivers performances that combine a demonstrative ridiculousness with a kitschy sincerity. If Greenfield can achieve that, he'll have truly accomplished something.
After Goldblum's suicide/reunion movie, he spent the nineties injecting the strange into otherwise straight-ahead blockbusters like
Nowadays, Goldblum is a sort of pater familias for the Hollywood's indie crowd. He shows up in Wes Anderson movies, plays a gay dad on
and reigns as the "Pull-Out King" on
. This is precisely the sort of career arc we want for Greenfield. This man belongs in a lab coat in a Michael Bay movie or behind a morally-compromised henchman's grimace in a Marvel production. Let him knock on the fourth wall without punching through it. Let him play the "Max Greenfield character."
He may not be a leading man, but if Greenfield follows Goldblum's lead he can be something way better: memorable.