Movie of the Day – Greenberg

If you have never seen a Noam Baumbach film before, you might be a bit off put by the subject matter.  There is a certain nuance to films and the fact that he capture the little complications of life that plague us in the back of our mind.  Where we are in life, what we see ourselves doing, and coming to terms with the our place in life, whether good or bad.  His writing is snarky, often dark in terms of humor, but there is a sort of catch that their characters have that draw you into the story, even if it is more or less about pretty white people with pretty white problems.  Hey, he writes what he knows and what he is comfortable with, I can’t fault him for that.  But Greenberg is one of the more mature films he has done in a while, one that evolves into a film that tries to find a resolution between what we project about ourselves to people and what we feel about ourselves inside.

Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), single, fortyish and at a crossroads in his life, finds himself in Los Angeles, house-sitting for six weeks for his more successful/married-with-children brother. In search of a place to restart his life, Greenberg tries to reconnect with old friends including his former bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans). But old friends aren’t necessarily still best friends, and Greenberg soon finds himself spending more and more time with his brother’s personal assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig), an aspiring singer and also something of a lost soul. Despite his best attempts not to be drawn in, Greenberg and Florence manage to forge a connection, and Greenberg realizes he may at last have found a reason to be happy.  (source)

This is one of the rare Ben Stiller roles that I really enjoy.  It’s not that he has a certain way to be both endearing and biting in his humor, but it’s the way that this character develops or doesn’t, depending on your view of the movie.  He is an acerbic character, polarizing in tone and manner and generally someone who is socially destructive with the way he views his life and acts on it.  The character of Greenberg isn’t the sort of likeable person we want to root for in a movie, especially when he still exhibits a personality of a person who hasn’t grown up or figured life out at 40.  We expect characters of that age to be in a point in their lives where they know what they want and the idea is to get there over the course of the movie.  This isn’t like the typical films we have seen with this premise, as the experiment in the movie is more grown-ups starting to learn to grow up.

Greenberg takes two characters at different points in lives, Greenberg (Ben Stiller) who is 40 and trying to shake the socially destructive persona he has about life and pairs him with Florence (Greta Gerwig) who is a 25-year-old office assistant.  They are both at a life point in which they need to figure it all out or understand where they want to go.  Ultimately there stances in life is the catalyst for them to come together, growing and learning about one another and their life as they go through the motions.  Upon an initial viewing, I didn’t think they were right for one another, mainly because Greenberg is an unlikeable ass of a man who doesn’t seem to grow as a person.  It hits on that cliche item in films where a person can’t grow unless there is a love interest to motivate them to action.  But reviewing the film more and more leads me to believe that the growth and pairing is natural in the sense that people of like minds will flock together.  Their affection and personalities seems to vibe well enough that you can understand why they gravitate towards one another.  Greenberg is a bitter, misanthropic sort of man, but it’s because he is pushing forty and not where he needs to be in life, or so he thinks.  Florence is young and has a full life ahead of her, it’s just that she needs to find something to lay the ground work on.  The gravity and spark the two have might seem altruistically destructive and not healthy, but two hurt people coming together can heal one another.  In some way they do and in other ways that don’t grow, but that is for you to watch and interpret.

If this synopsis and review seems familiar to you, well, it is the sort of film that appeals to the generation x crowd.  Finding that place in life or just shrugging off the social responsibilities of life.  What makes the film unique or memorable is the writing and care that Baumbach has with his subjects.  He takes the approach of giving us an unlikeable character, one that we can’t truly connect with and puts us through the motions of the story, watching with a pensive nature as to how it will all play out.  At it’s heart, we grow along with the characters, supplanting our experiences with theirs, hoping that the outcomes is something we want.  If it isn’t, well then that is life and we grow up because of it.  That is what this movie has to offer.  A smart script, fine dramatic acting from Ben Stiller, one of my favorite roles of his, and then there is Greta Gerwig who is elegant and incredible in this role.  For me, she stole the show with her line delivery and engaging spirit in a film that has a jagged edge to life.  Definitely worth the view.

*images via RottenTomatoes

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

2 Responses to Movie of the Day – Greenberg

  1. rochpikey says:

    Some might have viewed this as a risky play for Stiller but I thought it did him justice as an actor. Everyone is used to his quirky, hopeless romantic roles but I think people would be pleasantly surprised by this. Many other comedic actors have done the same thing. Look at Bill Murray for instance. Known most for his roles in comedies is now taking on dramatic roles that still have room for his humor to show. I enjoyed watching this and was nice to see a slightly more serious Ben Stiller. I’m sure we’ll see more roles like this out of him.

    • Nick says:

      I am all for Stiller playing against type in these sort of films. Bill Murray and even Will Ferrel are great in roles that have them not be the comedians that they are. It takes a lot to shift roles into the dramatic range and Stiller shows that he has that range to be something other than a funny guy.

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