Watching the dark comedy Greenberg feels like spending two hours with one of the most obnoxious, woe-is-me and forget you, self-centered, person you've ever met. That's not a bad thing, just good acting. Ben Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, a 40-ish New York carpenter whose musical career tanked years ago. Just out of a mental hospital after having a breakdown, Roger house-sits in his brother's Hollywood Hills home while he's away on a family trip to Vietnam. Greenberg constantly rants the world is a crappy place and is the first to call out someone on their issues. He spends time writing complaint letters about mundane things. Such as the letter he sent to the New York mayor about the high-frequency of car horns blowing in Manhattan. Also don't expect him to listen to your problems, because his are way heavier than yours. What's funny is Roger doesn't realize society is not the problem, but himself. And he's blind to his own privilege. The world can't be too bad if he can afford "do nothing for a while," and recover from his troubles in his brother's sprawling home with a pool. I can't stand Roger Greenberg but I love Ben Stiller. Stiller subtly injects his comic skills and does a wonderful job of projecting Roger's narcissism to the point where I was amused and annoyed by the character. READ MORE
A few times Roger attempts to make life right but keeps getting in his own way. He begins a relationship with his brother's 25-year-old personal assistant, Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig). Every time she appears on the screen I think, "poor thing." She's a lost, sweet soul who sings at dead hipster bars as a side gig. She tries to get over her ex- boyfriend by getting under other guys who give her attention, if you know what I mean. You feel bad for her. The girl has some self-esteem issues because she falls for Roger and keeps coming back to him despite his verbal abuse. Two musicians never in harmony with each other or life. But the difference between Florence and Roger is she's not jaded about life and has some self-awareness of her problems.
Greenberg is my first Noah Baumbach film. Most films show the sparkly, high-living side of Los Angeles. Baumbach de-glamorizes LA with aerial views of the smoggy city and creating troubled characters who look, dare I say, average. Yes Virginia, there are average looking people in LA. He cleverly makes awkwardness both funny and dramatic in certain scenes. Some critics say this is a love story but I think Greenberg is a life story. There's a dysfunctional-love story in the plot, but this film is about learning to live with choices. The choices we make and the choices others make that directly impact our lives. The most moving part in the film is when Roger's former band mate Ivan Schrank (Rhys Ifans) tells Roger he wants to move back in with his wife and son. Of course Roger tries to dissuade him and makes a big fuss. Ivan's response is the key line that sums up the whole film. He says, "It's huge to finally embrace the life you never planned for." Boom! That's Greenberg's problem. He can't make peace with his past choices and it drives him crazy. Unfortunately, it drives him to drive others crazy too.
No need to go to your best friend's cousin's trunk for a bootleg copy of Greenberg. I give it a Box Office rating. It's not a great film but it's extremely interesting. Save your money and go to a matinee showing. Keep an open mind during this film. The characters are cast perfectly. Ben Stiller proves he's more than just a funny man. Greta Gerwig is very convincing as a vulnerable girl stumbling through life and searching for herself. Don't see it if you're in the mood for a feel-good flick because it's a dark comedy. Watch Greenberg if you're looking for a film to make you think and laugh a bit.