Greenberg (USA, 2010)

greenbergax085-54d2-9jpg-a514e7e4b3ac2c84Directed by: Noah Baumbach. I checked this one out because I was in need of a good laugh. And, all of his shitty movies notwithstanding, I instinctively gravitate towards a movie with Ben Stiller in it when I need a laugh. I still love Something About Mary, and that first Meet the  Parents movie was actually pretty funny, right? If you don’t like his awkward, stuttering nice guy character, then I guess I can’t change you. Likewise for his yelling, angry guy character. This movie turned out to be all about the angry guy who yells and gets upset all the time, and that’s pretty much why I didn’t like this movie. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, who co-wrote with Wes Anderson one of my favourite comedies ever, The Life Aquatic, and worked on Fantastic Mr Fox as well, I was expecting something kind of understated and cool. The movie definitely seems to be barking up the same tree as a lot of other somber coming-of-age movies of our generation (Lost in Translation, Garden State, et al). Say what you will about those kinds of movies—I can’t stand Garden State anymore—at least they tried to offer a more or less sober antidote to the Lord of the Rings/Michael Bay/Vin Diesel explosions and CGI spectacles that tend to dominate the screens. And the first fifteen minutes or so, lead by Greta Gerwig as a pretty endearing (if not totally original) quirky hipster girl, shows some potential. I thought maybe the film would be some kind of comment on youth culture/hipster culture confronted with the problems of aging and maturing, and how that plays out in relationships. Or something. But then Ben Stiller is introduced as the recovering mental patient brother, and from there the whole thing goes downhill. I cared way more about Greta Gerwig’s character than about Ben Stiller’s moody, frustrated, overgrown crybaby Greenberg. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen so many of these little character pieces before. I felt the same reaction to Woody Allen’s Interiors—a superior movie in many ways—because, to some extent, I just can’t empathize with middle-aged upper-class white people wallowing in their crises of identity and emotion and whatever else. There’s not really anything to fix in the character of Greenberg, either. If he stopped whining and carrying on, there would be no conflict. The best thing to do would be to realize that Greta’s character is the lead, that her story is way more interesting because we haven’t seen it a billion times, and go from there. Maybe Greenberg as a supporting character might work. But as is, I really couldn’t care less about him, and even with some great one-liners, a film doesn’t hold up without some basic interest in the lead. But maybe it’s just me.

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2 responses to “Greenberg (USA, 2010)

  1. Pingback: Tiny Furniture (USA, 2010) « Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: Frances Ha (USA, 2013) | Offhand Reviews·

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