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Greenberg review

by Andy Gibbons

What is it?

Writer / director Noah Baumbach’s (The Squid And The Whale, Margot At The Wedding) latest examination of the human condition, only this time he swaps coasts from his native New York and relocates the to ‘action’ to LA.

Ben Stiller stars as Roger Greenberg, a man whose recent 40th birthday coincided with a bit of a breakdown. When his successful brother heads of to Vietnam for six weeks, Roger flies in from New York to look after the family home and recuperate. And there he meets Florence (Greta Gerwig), his brother’s personal assistant and an uncomfortable relationship starts to form between the two while Roger also begins to reconnect with the friends he left behind.

Untitled Noah Baumbach Project

What’s good?

After films like The Royal Tenenbaums, there’s been no doubt in my mind that Ben Stiller can deliver a good performance when he wants to and Greenberg gives him a solid chance to escape the mainstream shtick that pays his mortgage and flex his acting muscles (think Jim Carrey in The Truman Show or Man In The Moon). And Greenberg certainly sees him in decent form. But surprisingly for me the best thing on screen comes from Rhys Ifans as Roger’s friend Ivan, whose own personal problems barely register on Roger’s selfish radar.

What’s bad?

To say that Greenberg lacks any discernible plot is a bit of an understatement as Roger and Florence simply flit from one navel-gazing episode of self-angst and quirky dialogue to another without any real sense of connection. Roger himself is a pretty petty and unlikable character – sure, he’s recovering from various issues but his mood swings make him really hard to warm to. And a quick note to Baumbach; having your main character write spurious letters of complaint to various companies doesn’t make him interesting – it makes him annoying.

So basically…..

While I’ve never exactly been a fan of Baumbach’s previous films, I’ve always found something to like in them. But while I didn’t hate Greenberg I found it very hard to get a grip on – it’s too aimless and meandering and never really goes anywhere. I don’t want to use words like pretentious or self-satisfied but for me Greenberg is the cinematic equivalent of sitting in a coffee shop with a soy latte while reading The Complete Works of Chekov and stroking your goatee.


Greenberg is in cinemas now


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