Monday, July 19, 2010

Greenberg review (DVD)

Cast: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig
Dir: Noah Baumbach
Running time: 109 minutes

Seeing as how I live in State College, PA, it shouldn't be surprising that I wasn't able to see this movie until just recently. Nonetheless, since Greenberg is a 2010 movie and only actually came out four months ago, I still feel a review is in order. Especially since I was talking about it quite a bit back in February and March.

Greenberg is a very good film, an interesting character study on a 40-something man named Roger Greenberg who had just gotten out of a hospital in NYC due to having a nervous breakdown. Now, he's in LA, sent to take care of his brother's house while his brother's family goes out on vacation in Vietnam. The movie is really all about Greenberg, his relationship with his old friends,and his new relationship with a young woman who normally takes care of the dog (among other things) at the house.

Roger Greenberg is basically a misanthrope. He's not a very nice person and there aren't very many people who like him. But, in a way, you kinda feel bad for the guy as he seems so wrapped up in his own self-loathing that he can't help but take it out on other people. When you see him with his old friends, you can tell that there's a lot of resentment. They meet with him, hang out with him... almost out of pity or out of habit. But, except for his former best friend Ivan, the rest of them simply can't stand him for too long. He's still holding on to what went on between them back in their 20s and yet they've moved on and had lives and children.

"Greenberg" is about what happens when you don't follow the normal path of adulthood. What happens when you don't fall in love, get married, have a regular job, and have kids? It's as if Greenberg never changed throughout his late 20s and 30s so now he's 41 and he basically has the same mentality that he had when he was 25. The only difference is that now he's just more disgruntled and mad at the world. It's sad and yet it's all so portrayed realistically thanks to Noah Baumbach's writing (and his partner Jennifer Jason Leigh).

The relationship between Greenberg and Florence (Gerwig) is also portrayed quite wonderfully even though Greenberg does everything he can to prevent anything real or serious happening between them. Greta Gerwig does a great job with portraying Florence and even though you may wonder what she's doing getting involved with a guy like Greenberg, you can kinda see the similarities between the two of them. They both sort of don't know what they want out of life and are just kind of stuck in some sort of limbo. Perhaps Florence reminds Greenberg of being in his mid-20s again, but either way, a bond just kind of forms right away between the two but it's a bond that neither of them can really strengthen.

Baumbach, of recent years, has often been criticized for writing characters that are basically unlikable and hard to relate to, and while Greenberg is indeed quite unlikable, I do think you can relate to a guy like him. You might not like who he is or you may not have much in common with him. But you can see how he turned out the way he did. The end of the film suggests that maybe he has found something in his life that will change him for the better, but you can't really know that for sure. Can he finally grow up, have a real relationship, and accept the natural progression of life? Or will he have another nervous breakdown? Either way, Noah Baumbach has constructed a wonderfully-made movie. It also has a lot of little funny parts that really made me laugh and I basically think of the movie as... what if one of the characters from "Kicking and Screaming" never grew up and wound up hating life? Well, he probably would wind up like Roger Greenberg.

Let me warn you though, some of you may not like Greenberg as much as I did. In fact, some of you might not like it at all. Noah Baumbach's films do not appeal to everyone. Some people really like them, some people hate them. I happen to fall into the former category. So, if you don't like it, don't worry about it. Noah Baumbach creates honest, heartfelt films with characters that you may not like very much. I still like his films and this approach is very interesting to me, but it doesn't have to be for you I suppose.

Rating: 8/10

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