FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: Last night, I saw “Greenberg,” which stars Ben Stiller (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Tropic Thunder), Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America), Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man, Notting Hill), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa), Chris Messina (Away We Go, Argo), Susan Traylor (Heat, A River Runs Through It), Mark Duplass (Creep, Safety Not Guaranteed), Merritt Wever (Signs, Birdman or [The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance]), and Brie Larson (Room, Captain Marvel). It is written and directed by Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story , The Squid and the Whale). A neurotic former carpenter (Stiller) travels from New York City to Los Angeles to stay at his brother’s house for the week while the family’s away, but soon falls in love with their assistant (Gerwig).
Roger Greenberg is honestly one of the most infuriating lead characters I have seen on screen. He’s off the walls, crazy in the sense that you never know what he will do or say next. Is it genius writing or poor character choice? I’m unsure. All I know is, Baumbach is ballsy for making him the centralized figure, considering how Gerwig’s Florence was more or less disappointing. What is this film about? A forty year old man trying to revel in doing nothing, only to make life complicated by falling in love with someone fifteen years his junior. What unfolds can be monotonous, intriguing, and awkward, all wrapped in one. If there’s something to be said about this feature, it’s how Baumbach has mastered the awkward situation. His dialogue is life-like, with characters who I can flip heads or tails over in terms of intentions. It’s as if I’m trying to navigate through a sea of alphabet soup, some terrain forming words and making sense, others being complete gibberish. The point of Roger Greenberg is to show how wild his brain functions; one moment he’s showing compassion towards Florence, the other he’s spouting hateful words at her. Really, it made me nervous. A character I couldn’t crack? How is that possible? Granted, some things can be ascertained. It’s easy to figure out he likes Florence deep down, but is unaware to convey this due to his… well, being. Seeing him change his mind and go about his day was frustrating, but I will admit it was interesting. I stayed throughout the whole runtime, never leaving, or really checking my watch for that matter. Does that mean it’s good? No. It more so means that it retained my attention. The catch-22 is how I was excited to see a fresh, different character, but be disappointed by his inability to shoulder this project. He arcs, mind you. By the end, he essentially does what we wanted him to do, but that’s not to say he won’t flip-flop again. “Greenberg” is built on many rises and falls, a lot of which are close together. Baumbach does a good job making sure Roger apologizes, but his journey is pretty loose. Especially the intentions of those around him. As I stated, Florence was a let-down. While Gerwig tried her best, her character was weak, never really giving her own two cents on matters or fulfilling the conflict she faced. The movie even opened with her, revealing to the audience that she was looking for love, a lifetime companion. Her attraction to Roger was never justified, as he did more harm than good to her. The same goes for Greenberg’s friend, Ivan (Rhys). Poor guy. However, I felt more touched by his relationship with Roger than anyone else. Most times, I felt on the side of everyone but Greenberg. And while he had a lot to learn as the “protagonist,” it isn’t like he completely changed by the end. This is one of those head-scratchers folks. All of the performances were great (Stiller disappeared in the role) and it was done well in technical aspects. Baumbach wanted a neurotic character and he succeeded. But was it the right choice in the long run? To me, not so much. Because of the constant wavering of Greenberg’s thoughts, there was not much of a theme, leaving for a hodgepodge of scenes that all point to different directions. The most prominent is the generation gap, how the youth acts differently than the old (“youth is wasted on the young”), but this could’ve been played into more. All in all, “Greenberg” has an original lead character, but lacks the legs to really make for a satisfying viewing experience. FINAL SCORE: 65%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: