Tuesday, December 28, 2010


or: The unlikable lead.

One word to sum it up: Indie.
Ben Stiller. How do you explain Ben Stiller? He’s like every other 'funny guy' out there...he's funny once, but fails to strike gold again. However, when people came out with their reviews for Greenberg, they kept saying over and over that this was the best work he had done 'in an age'. That may be true, if we were speaking in acting terms, but people keep forgetting the remarkable work he did in Tropic Thunder. Which just shows that the critics will go for indie more than mainstream blockbuster, even if the latter was a bit better.
We like Florence (Greta Gerwig): she's considerate, sweet, pretty, and terrific with kids and dogs. She's 26, personal assistant to an L.A. family who's off on vacation. Her boss's brother (Ben Stiller) comes in from New York City, fresh out of an asylum, to stay at the house. He's Roger, a carpenter, 40, gone from L.A. for 15 years. He arrives, doesn't drive, and needs Florence's help, especially with the family dog. He's also connecting with ex-mates--two men and one woman with whom he has a history. He over-analyzes, has a short fuse, and doesn't laugh at himself easily. As he navigates past and present, he's his own saboteur. And what of Florence, is Roger one more responsibility for her or something else?
One of the worst things about Greenberg is the titular character himself. One of the best things about Greenberg is the titular character himself. So what happened when I had to come to the decision of whether I liked the movie or not? Well, let's just say, it certainly wasn't as great as the critics made it out to be, but it's a typical lowkey effort from Noah Baumbach which deserves some recognition. After all, he made a largely character based movie with no plot kinda work. Yeah, it gets a little tedious sometimes, and most of the time we just want to shoot Greenberg, but if you give it a little thought, Baumbach has a clear dedication to his characters and they really are quite clever.
Ben Stiller does do his best acting work in a while, looking quite tired and weathered, making Greenberg a more believable slacker. However--and this isn't the first time you have probably heard this--it is Greta Gerwig who steals the show. We've seen plenty of actresses play the nice girl who is successful and loved, but Gerwig's take on the character makes it seem like a completely original idea. Part of that comes from Baumbach's accurate depiction of the nice successful girl who isn't perfect. Then Gerwig takes the reins and ensures that this character comes to life in the sweetest way possible, and is so down to earth and charasmatic that she's impossible not to like. If only other actresses could take a leaf out of Gerwig's book, as she is the actress of the future. Greenberg's lead characters shine, and they aren't without their backup from Rhys Ifans and Jennifer Jason Leigh (who also wrote the story). However, the material is a little awkward (especially the sexual encounters between Greenberg and Florence) and a little boring, and doesn't manage to stick in your mind long after you watch it.

THE VERDICT: Ben Stiller gives a great performance, and Greta Gerwig steals the show, but Noah Baumbach's film is a bit slow, due to the fact that it is largely character based and has no real plot to speak of.

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