Directed by Noah Baumbach
“Roger Greenberg (Stiller) is single, fortyish and deliberately doing nothing. In search of a place to restart his life, he agrees to housesit for his brother in LA and tries to reconnect with his former bandmate (Rhys Ifans) and ex-girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh). But old friends aren’t necessarily still best friends, and Greenberg soon finds himself forging a connection with his brother’s personal assistant, Florence (Greta Gerwig). Despite his best attempts not to be drawn in, Greenberg comes to realize that he may at last have found a reason to be happy.”
“Greenberg” is rated R for some strong sexuality, drug use, and language.
My main problem with this film is Ben Stiller as Roger Greenberg. Roger is not a likable person. He shies away from crowds. He says incredibly rude things without thought. He’s incapable of being empathetic, he has mental problems, and he’s wandering aimlessly in life. Roger is a character with a little black rain cloud constantly hovering over him. He’s not somebody I’d want to be around in the real world and he’s not someone I enjoy watching in a movie for 108 minutes. Now there’s nothing wrong with Ben Stiller’s performance. He created a realistic, flawed character. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have no interest in him.
The other characters in the movie are also well-performed, but ultimately flawed and/or uninteresting. Greta Gerwig is Florence Marr. In many ways she’s one of the more responsible characters in the movie. In other ways, she’s yet another broken character looking for a meaningful relationship but not knowing how to find it. She puts up with Roger a lot longer than most people would because she’s almost as broken as he is. You want to slap her and tell her to snap out of it. Rhys Ifans as Ivan Schrank practically sleepwalks through the movie, but it’s his character’s easygoing attitude that probably makes him put up with Roger as well. Jennifer Jason Leigh also has a brief cameo, but she’s practically unrecognizable with a fake nose, fake teeth, and glasses.
I also have to say that I was two thirds of the way through this movie and I still had no idea where the story was going. Roger was still wandering aimlessly and moping, trying to reconnect with his old friends unsuccessfully. Florence was still inexplicably entertaining him. Ivan entertained him as well. I had a hard time explaining the plot and frankly I was past the point of caring.
Who would I recommend “Greenberg” to? Just indie cinema fans and not many other people. They’re the only ones that will enjoy the film’s quirks. Fans of Stiller’s more mainstream films will probably want to pass on this because he’s not his usual wacky self that you see in “Meet the Parents,” “Tropic Thunder,” etc.
Among the bonus features you’ll find three featurettes. They are “A Behind-The-Scenes Look At Greenberg,” “Greenberg Loves Los Angeles,” and “Noah Baumbach Takes A Novel Approach.”