Saturday, 24 July 2010

A Few Notes on Greenberg

Baumbach is not an easy director. His Margot at the Wedding was so uncomfortable, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the reason that so few care to remember it (despite Nicole Kidman’s excellent performance). Greenberg is not as obviously prickly but it’s not an easy comedy either. The eponymous Greenberg (Ben Stiller) has recently been released from a mental institution and other than his somewhat dormant career as a carpenter his life seems dedicated to wasting time and making everyone around him feel terrible.

Stiller is an odd one for me, I’ve never found myself particularly impressed by him and watching Greenberg there’s something that tells me that tells me that someone else could have done the role better justice. That said, it’s arguably one of Stiller’s strongest performances and though he occasionally comes off as too perfunctory with his lines he does a good job of carrying the film on his shoulders. His Greenberg seems to be a disgusting man-child, but Stiller manages (somehow) to make him into something more accessible to the audience. Sometimes it's difficult to forget we're watching Stiller, but more often than not Stiller manages to drown in his character and that's when the film is strongest - when Stiller really acts and let the great screenplay shine through.

Oddly, despite Baumbach’s apparent intention to make this a film about Stiller Greta Gerwig and Rhys Ifana contribute too excellent supporting performances. The latter in particular takes a potential stock role of the wronged friend and turns it into something bathetic and real. This is my first outing with Greta Gerwig, but she plays well as a potential love interest for the misanthropic Greenberg. Greenberg shouldn’t come off as such an easy watch – the characters (most of them) are unfeeling and cold, but Baumbach knows how to work with these type of flawed beings and even though it’s not pleasant per se, it is pleasing to watch.



joe burns said...

Looks interesting. What did you think of A Squid And A Whale?

Simon said...

Greta Gerwig is the only reason I'd watch this again. It's not awful, but the characters are.

Castor said...

I remember Red absolutely despising this movie and so many people actually asking to get their movie tickets refunded that movie theaters actually prepared signs stating they didn't issue refunds for Greenberg. Maybe some day, I will check it out to see what that's all about :)

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

joe i thought it was lovely when i first saw it (especially daniels and linney). i feel it's time to revisit.

simon really? i don't think they're THAT awful.

castor really? i did not hear about that. yikes.

Burning Reels said...

The whole point is the characters are fucked up. I agree, sometimes Baumbach overdoes it but he's tapping into psyches that few directors are capable of capturing.