Greenberg is a very interesting film, which a lot of people wont get much out of but some will find deeply affecting. Noah Baumbach who is celebrated for his approach at naturalistic family drama’s like Whale and the Squid and Margot at the wedding connects with an audience like few can. Greenberg always feels real, sometimes uncomfortably so.
Ben Stiller hasn’t had a dramatic role for nearly 10 years so some may be excused for forgetting his serious side. Stiller plays Roger Greenberg a 40 something New Yorker fresh from a nervous breakdown who returns to his home town in Los Angeles after seemingly avoiding his friends and family for the past 15 years.
While house sitting for his brother while he and his family are in Vietnam, Roger connects with the housekeeper, Florence played by Greta Gerwig. Something neither can do with anyone else in the real world. They are both mixed up emotionally fragile people who are able to relate to each other’s awkwardness. They both want something meaningful in their lives and see it in each other. Stiller is a standout as Roger, who for the most part is an unlikeable character, stubborn, opinionated and rude. Stiller anchors the film and connects with the characters pain and isolation. You will still want to root for Roger even after he does some not so likeable things.
Greta Gerwig is truly wonderful; Florence is awkward, raw and so unsure of herself, the perfect folly for Stiller’s Greenberg. Every scene with the two of them benefits the film and the audience’s appreciation for the two actors. They share some very real scenes and moments. Some that will terrify some viewers. Baumbach tells a not so memorable tale of self loathing, emptiness and abandonment but does so in a way that gets the audience deeply invested in the lives of the two leads and will get people questioning their own lives and relationships.
Verdict. See this. Not what some will expect from Stiller, but Greenberg is his best film for a long time, it is raw, emotionally charged and for some incredibly close to home.