Greenberg (2010)

Dear Starbucks, in your attempt to manufacture culture out of fast food coffee you’ve been surprisingly successful for the most part. The part that isn’t covered by ‘the most part’ sucks.

— Roger Greenberg

I have a bone to pick with the Steve and Brian from The Film Cynics. They recently reviewed Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Greenberg. They eviscerated this film saying that it was dull, stupid and a waste of time. I’m paraphrasing here. You could hear their verbal tongue lashing here. Personally, I am not familiar with the works of Baumbach. Going into this movie, I heard nothing but great things about it. I think they don’t like to see flawed characters on screen.

Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. He is a forty-year-old man that was recently discharged from the loony bin, because he had a nervous breakdown. He is extremely OCD, doesn’t want to drive and constantly applies chapstick. He house-sits for his brother, Phillip (Chris Messina) and his family take a six week vacation to Vietnam.

Roger becomes acquainted with Phillip’s assistant, Florence (Greta Gerwig), who comes by the house to check up on the family dog or see if Roger needs anything from the grocery store. Feeling bored in the house, Roger writes letters to companies about mundane everyday annoyance. That doesn’t seem to be enough for him that doesn’t seem to be enough for him. He reconnects with his old friend, Ivan (Rhys Ifans) who used to be in a band with him along with another friend, Eric (Mark Duplass).

Roger tries to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend, Beth (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who doesn’t really give him the time of day. Roger’s fragile mental state makes him prone to inappropriate outbursts at the smallest things like listening to a CD, blowing out your birthday candles or expressing any kind of affection to another person. Roger tries to start something up with Florence who doesn’t want to sleep with every guy that she comes in contact with.

From what I heard, Baumbach is known for creating unlikable character. Yes, Roger comes off as a pompous asshole. Nobody should be around this guy. He is a broken man that is filled with regret about the mistakes that he has done with his life. He filled with contempt with throwing his life away, trying to relive his youth that is gone. This guy is lost to himself and lost of the world. Nobody knows how to deal with him.

Personally, the people in this film are not categorized into type “A” or type B” personalities. People like this exist in real life. We don’t necessarily hang out with them, but they are out there. I could identify myself with Roger’s plight, a person plagued with missed opportunities and running out of second chances. Upset with how his life turned and lashing out towards the people that he has come in contact. I get that.

Judgment: It’s not a pleasant watch. It’s brutally honest. It doesn’t have to be in your face. It could deliberate and subtle in its pace and mood.

Rating: ****


About Branden

Branden: I am just your average movie nut that reviews films. Gives his take on pop culture and Hollywood happenings. Dreams to have his own thriving website and make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Posted on July 19, 2010, in 2010, Comedy, Drama, Independent, Romantic and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Am I presuming too much if I say that this review tells me a lot more about you than it does about the movie? And despite my well known feelings about the film, I mean that in the most complimentary sense. Thanks for the trackback and gentle prodding – Baumbach won’t be making his way onto my shelf any time soon, that’s for sure.

    I’m surprised you didn’t enter to win my Greenberg disc though. Come on! Put your rating where your mouth is!

    • Well, yeah, I gathered that I could be put myself into the lives of the characters. Besides, I never saw Zoolander anyway to answer the question.

      • Love for Greenberg and never seen Zoolander? Now I know you’re serious about this film. I figured those who flocked to this movie were those who took Stiller seriously as an actor… If you aren’t familiar with Baumbach’s work and not a Zoolander fan, what the heck did bring you to watch this film?

  2. I have seen bits and pieces of Zoolander over the years. I have not seen the full film. I think that people are so quick to pigeonhole somebody for being a comedy actor or being in a costume drama. Why can’t actors explore different genres?

    Stiller won’t get an Oscar nomination for this, but I think he should go outside of the typical family comedy.

    • All kinds of actors try other genres, some successfully, some not so much. Sandler’s done pretty well, Robin Williams too. Are you saying that Stiller isn’t getting a fair shake in this movie because people think he should be sticking with comedy? ‘Cause I don’t think that’s why. Stiller’s performance had nothing to do with what Brian and I didn’t like about Greenberg – it was Baumbach, plain and simple. This was a film that was purported to be full of nuance and irony, but was instead just sad and annoying. Brian said it best when he expressed that Baumbach was trying to be as clever as Wes Andersen, but leaving out the key ingredient: entertainment. Greenberg failed to be entertaining, and for better or for worse, that’s what brings us back to the movies every week: the possibility of entertainment.

      • It’s a fair statement that you or Brian don’t like Baumbach’s writing. That is a completely valid point. Baumbach has more niche sensibilities that some people won’t like.

  3. Good thanks for the review. I have been waiting to see this for quite a while and am interested in Baumbach’s work. I liked the idea of taking on an unlikable character who has no desires… what a story tellers challenge!

    • That’s what I have trying to say to Steve. Not every character should be likable. They should be intriguing.

      • Nobody’s saying they all have to be likeable – just one of them. It’s too much for Rhys Ifans to carry himself, and he’s not necessarily likeable either, considering how he’s a broken man who inexplicably puts up with his friend Roger’s neuroses.

  4. Glad to hear you liked this! I love Baumbach (everybody should watch The Squid and the Whale), and was bummed I missed this in theatres.

    • I don’t know even know that it was playing in my area. What a gip. I’m glad that I caught up with this movie.

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