Today's release of Pineapple Express isn't only an event for its star and co-writer, Seth Rogen, or its producer, human comedy factory Judd Apatow. It also launches the career of its director, indie auteur David Gordon Green, in a brand-new direction. Not only is he better at staging fight scenes than Christopher Nolan, he applies his own brand of dreamy widescreen realism – previously seen in low-budget gems like George Washington and All the Real Girls — to a stoner action-comedy, complete with explosions.
Green follows Superbad's Greg Mottola — best known for his 1996 feature The Daytrippers — as indie directors whose careers take sudden right turns thanks to Apatow. What other auteurs could benefit from the Apatow touch — and how would they shake up the Apatow formula?
At last night's premiere, Green himself suggested Tom McCarthy, a perfect choice. Not every modestly successful indie director is right, though: Wes Anderson's obsessive tendencies make him a poor fit with Team Apatow; Richard Linkater already basically made an Apatow movie with School of Rock. We looked through our DVD collection and came up with a few more names.
Why Team Apatow could help her: The writer-director of such relationship-based gems as Walking and Talking and Lovely & Amazing has never seen her talky dramedies take off, despite a fabulous ear for dialogue and a willingness to embrace life's difficult moments
Why she could help Team Apatow: Knocked Up and other Apatow comedies have always taken heat — sometimes from their own female stars — for not exploring women with the spirit in which they portray men. Holofcener might be the person to finally bring some relevant and spiky female characters to the Apatow oeuvre.
The dream project: Imagine an ensemble marriage comedy co-written by Judd and Nicole, starring Paul Rudd, Catherine Keener, John C. Reilly, and Emily Mortimer.
Why Team Apatow could help him: The breakout director of the mumblecore movement has watched as his highly praised movies — like Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation — have attained viewership as modest as the movies themselves.
Why he could help Team Apatow: As millionaire producer Apatow has become more and more ensconced in his California coterie of stars and collaborators, there's a real danger that he might lose all touch with the underdog; former Freaks and Geeks writer Mike White has already bemoaned Apatow's "comedy of the bullies." Bujalski's lo-fi technique and knack for telling stories about truly ordinary people might really help.
The dream project: A Williamsburg-set scruffle comedy about three former college roommates trying to make it in the big city, starring Michael Cera and a cast of unknowns.
Why Team Apatow could help her: Over her career, Breillat — director of such sexually provocative fare as Fat Girl and Romance — has specialized in never making the expected move. After her Asia Argento–starring period drama, The Last Mistress, what would be more unlikely than a studio comedy? And her penchant for the transgressive suggests a comic director hidden under the outrageous auteur.
Why she could help Team Apatow: The sex scenes in Knocked Up ("It's doggie-style, it's just a style, we don't have to go outside or anything") touches on the rich veins of discomfort and comedy in the sex lives of the contemporary American; why not explore those themes with one of the few serious directors willing to shoot explicit sex scenes?
The dream project: Like Tell Me You Love Me, but humor-full instead of humorless.
Why Team Apatow could help him: While the daring Araki — director of Mysterious Skin and The Living End — has never shown any interest in playing the studio game, it's no secret it can be hard to find financing for the movies he makes. One solid comedy hit could take care of that problem for the next couple of years.
Why he could help Team Apatow: Araki could bring visual flair to a genre not typically known for it — and could also give the Apatow homophobic-bromance trope some honest-to-God romance.
The dream project: Superbad 2, please.