Greenberg

2010

Comedy / Drama

Synopsis


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Downloaded 34,638 times
January 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Director

Cast

Ben Stiller as Roger Greenberg
Greta Gerwig as Florence Marr
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Beth - Beller's Party
Rhys Ifans as Ivan Schrank
720p
696.69 MB
1280*536
English
R
English
23.976 fps
1hr 47 min
P/S 3 / 38

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by David Ferguson (fergusontx@gmail.com) 8 / 10

Working hard at doing nothing

Greetings again from the darkness. Noah Baumbach wrote and directed the excellent "The Squid and the Whale", and it is with "Greenberg" that he really makes a statement as an independent filmmaker to anticipate. The second gem is always the most elusive. That said, I am not sure I can recommend this movie to very many people, despite all the good things I am about to write.

This is the first Ben Stiller role that actually seems to fit him. His typical role is as a punchline. Here, he plays a guy who recently suffered a nervous breakdown and is now house-sitting for his rich brother, whose family is vacationing in Vietnam. Throughout the movie, Greenberg states he is concentrating on doing "nothing" right now. Of course, that is his defense mechanism for being unable to connect or communicate with any real person. Yes, that sounds bleak ... and it is. Yet, it is also fascinating and thought-provoking.

Despite Stiller's strong turn, Greta Gerwig (as Florence) proves to be the heart of the story. She is the family assistant to Greenberg's brother and finds herself oddly attracted to Greenberg's vulnerable state. This is my first exposure to Ms. Gerwig and I find her fascinating as an actress. She has a natural openness on screen and is certainly no glamour-gal. Instead she comes across as a very real 25 year old trying to make sense of life - especially her own.

In addition to Ms. Gerwig, Rhys Ifans provides outstanding support work as Greenberg's long ago band mate. This is the polar opposite of Ifan's character in "The Boat that Rocked" as here is just a guy putting together a grown up life for himself. He struggles with the adjustment, but accurately depicts how choices can make or break us.

I am not sure whether to categorize this as a character study or just an exquisitely written series of scenes that hit the nail on the head. One of the best scenes of the film is when Stiller meets up with Jennifer Jason Leigh and she immediately rebuffs his reconciliation attempts. They had been a couple briefly 15 years ago and she has obviously moved on. Excellent film-making.

The best way I can describe Greenberg the character is that he is a compilation of the dark thought that we all experience from time to time ... a desire to do nothing, wanting to be blunt and direct, dreams of recapturing the magic of youth, and of course, writing complaint letters for everything wrong in the world. Obviously, most of us spend very little real time on these things, but that is the Greenberg character. Let's keep an eye on Mr. Baumbach - he may just be the real deal.

Reviewed by Eric M. Van (emvan@post.harvard.edu) 10 / 10

Brilliant, Heartwarming Character Study That's Not For Everybody

... (which, if you've read the other reviews here, you know is a massive understatement).

Let's start with the two obvious stumbling blocks to loving this rather astonishingly good and (for some) altogether life-affirming and lovable movie.

-- The main character is pretty much a jerk.

-- There's no plot.

Now, realize: the main character is *supposed* to be unlikeable. And the movie does not try to have a plot. And you might wonder, how can a movie that starts with these two conditions possibly be any good, let alone some be some kind of masterpiece? So let me explain.

Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller in the performance of his life) is by no means completely unlikeable. He's quite funny, an adept verbal wit (there is no situational comedy in this movie at all; it's funny in places because Greenberg is often funny). He has very firm and uncompromising moral ideals. He cares deeply and responsibly for animals. What makes him unlikeable is that he sometimes, unexpectedly, treats people, especially people he cares for, like crap -- he uses that verbal wit like a blunt knife and goes on unwarranted tirades. And he has almost no insight into himself (occasionally the movie is very funny at his expense.) You know that guy in your family who is fundamentally, deep down, a very good person, but is all too often an incredible pain and aggravation to be with? That's Greenberg. He is, in short, the sort of person who is much easier to love than to like.

We are told from the outset that he has, in fact, just been released from a mental institution, and this is one of the least cliched and most fully-rounded portraits of a seriously mentally ill person in recent cinema. We watch as he works really, really hard to sabotage any hope he has for a happy life.

He meets and is immediately smitten with a woman (played terrifically by Greta Gerwig; it's nearly as much her story as his) who has her own set of neuroses, but ones that are much more ordinary than his. We watch their relationship play out over a few months exactly as it might in real life, without any set of causally related events to provide an engine of plot.

So what narrative tension is there? Why keep watching? Very simply, if you like Roger Greenberg enough to have empathy and sympathy for his plight, if you can see past the sarcastic surface to the deep pain underneath, if you can recognize a little bit of yourself in him, then you are going to root for him to get his act together, to cut all that nonsense out, to start to understand himself --in short, to start to recover some sanity, to find the first cobblestones of the path to some kind of happiness.

Well, that's what happens, and it's wonderful to watch. (That it's possible to watch the movie and not notice it happening is obvious from some of the reviews here, including one that criticized the ending as incomplete; in fact, this may have the best and most perfect last line of any movie I can think of.)

If you didn't much like _Sideways_ or _Up in the Air_, I can guarantee that you will hate _Greenberg_ (I mean, imagine those movies, but with no plot, too!). If you loved those movies -- if you have no problem watching emotionally stunted people slowly grow up -- then you'll probably love this, too, and you may even love the way that the lack of conventional plot makes the movie completely realistic and hence especially powerful emotionally. When I first wrote this review, I ended by saying "I can't wait to see it again and I suspect I'll watch it many times." I've now seen it twice more and, indeed, it only gets better.

Reviewed by Dan Franzen (dfranzen70) 6 / 10

Character study may not be for everyone, but there's much to see

Greenberg, about a discontented 40 year old who's not at all sure what he's doing with his life, is a provocative slice of life - but it's not for all tastes. It moves slowly and demands extra attention, but even if you're really into the story you might wonder where those 107 minutes went.

Ben Stiller, in a terrific performance, is the titular ne'er do well, an itinerant carpenter housesitting for his brother in Los Angeles for six weeks. During that time, be meets and falls in and out of like for his brother's executive assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig, who's also magnificent), who's just as awkward as Roger Greenberg.

The bulk of the film covers their relationship on one track and the events of Greenberg's past that have led to his existential where-am-I ponderances. Some 15 years earlier, Roger was in a band out of college with a few good friends. They were apparently quite good, but when a record company offered them a deal, Roger turned it down, afraid of the success it might bring. This led to a serious rift in the band, causing each member to go his separate way; none of the members has played much music in the intervening years.

Liking Roger isn't easy for anyone, not even the audience. He's sort of a jerk. (It's mentioned that he's just been released from a mental institution, although the cause for his hospitalization is not explained.) The film indicates that Roger has problems maintaining relationships, sometimes acting out - and lashing out - in order to keep himself safe and serene. His arrival in LA allows him to reconnect with several of his old friends, many of whom he hasn't seen in those 15 years.

It's these fractured relationships that hold the key to Greenberg's life. At times, he tries to patch things up and move on with his life, but he's just as likely to snap at the friend or lapse into the same behavioral issues that had plagued him as a young man.

Stiller is really, really good in this. He's surprisingly very good at showing myriad emotions convincingly. At once, you believe Greenberg is a polarizing, hurting, hurtful man on the cusp of the rest of his life. Stiller's brand of comedy can take time to grow on someone, but he really shows his range here. I certainly didn't know he could plumb the depths of a character like he did to Roger Greenberg.

Gerwig is his equal and is a real presence here. Florence is - like her namesake Nightingale - a huge help to Greenberg's brother as his assistant, and he's much more savvy about taking care of the house than Greenberg is about taking care of himself (in a funny early scene, she asks him to make a list of things for her to get at the store, and he writes "whiskey" and "sandwiches"). But as good as she is at her professional life, her personal life is an absolute mess. She goes on one-night stands because they feel good - okay, no problem there - but she has few true connections in life. She has one good friend, and you get the impression that her family isn't really close to her (she says her niece doesn't relate too well to her). Florence is physically and emotionally awkward, unsure of herself in all ways save for her job, in which she's commanding. This, of course, also makes her terribly vulnerable to the advances of the older Greenberg.

So the acting is really top notch, but the movie just isn't for everyone. Here's why. There's a lot of plot, a lot of things happening, but very little is resolved or accomplished; the film almost feels like a stream of consciousness to which we're privy. What WILL Greenberg do after the six weeks are up? Will he stay with Florence? Will he jilt her? In the end, does it really matter? Probably not; the ending is abrupt, although not out of place for the rest of the film. But one really needs to be atuned to Greenberg's plight in order to enjoy the film. If one isn't, the movie's mostly dull with bits of funny moments interspersed throughout. I didn't find it terribly heartwarming, just a character study of an unlikable character. Which is not a bad thing at all, but this one just didn't completely work for me.

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