Greenberg (2010)

Written & Directed by Noah Baumbach
Story by Jennifer Jason Leigh & Noah Baumbach

I was let down by this film, but not because it was not good, if that makes any sense. I went in expecting one film, and got a completely different one, which is fine, except the completely different one did not include a story I particularly cared for. I very much so enjoyed the strangeness that was included in Baumbach’s other film The Squid and the Whale; there it really worked for me, but here it was slightly different and I did not like it as much. As I said in my first sentence, this is not a bad film. It is actually very well made so far as I can tell.

The acting is all quite good. Ben Stiller delivers and creates an interesting character in Roger Greenberg. Roger is from New York, but has come to LA to house sit for his brother. While there his past (he blew a record deal a while back for his band mate friends) catches up with him and he begins to contemplate his direction in life. He also encounters his brother’s assistant, Florence, played by Greta Gerwig. Gerwig is fantastic, as is the character of Florence. She was the one I was rooting for, even when she was seemingly mistakenly falling for Roger. I guess what I objected to was all in how things unfolded. There were many awkward scenes between the two leads and the path that Greenberg takes pained me to watch; it was almost too on the nose if you know what I mean. But that goes with the character. I feel as though what Ben Stiller has achieved in this performance is a certain brilliance. He is able to somehow draw a certain amount of sympathy and backing for a character that otherwise is quite dreadful. We know just enough of his story to blame him for his actions and at the same time understand that it is not all of his fault somehow. It is that which makes us sympathetic towards him. And it is also a good looking film. The angles and shots that Baumbach work with are just as interesting as the characters in them.

It was not a pleasant viewing experience given all of the things going on in the film and the awkwardness and depression that is depicted, but that being said, I do think it was the exact film Baumbach was trying to make. He wanted this and that is what he got. The final line pretty much sums it all up perfectly. It is hard for me to judge these types of films that I clearly had a negative reaction to while watching them, but looking back, that is exactly what I think the director is going for. And for that I applaud Baumbach and I can say this is a well made film. So where does my final verdict lie? The more I think about it, and as I write this review, I think I liked it more than my initial reaction. It is a film that I can ultimately respect and can see myself liking more with rewatches, as painful as they may become.

*** – Good

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