Greenberg Movie Review
Ben Stiller plays the title character in Greenberg, a dark drama-comedy from director Noah Baumbach, who since the excellent The Squid and the Whale has failed to rekindle that fine balance of depressing and disturbing and funny. Greenberg continues the trend.
To call Greenberg a comedy would be a stretch, even though it was marketed as such. To call it a romance would be equally questionable as Stiller treats his love interest like crap most of the time. The movie is a fusion of some witty dialogue and a can't-believe-he-said-that character that never amounts to a whole lot. The movie is as painful to watch as Rachel Getting Married, but without the stunning performances and modest payoff at the end.
The movie is about a man who suffered some kind of nervous breakdown and has recently been released from an institution. He moves into his brother's family home while they are overseas and hits it off with his brother's assistant (Greta Gerwig), who has some issues of her own. But Greenberg's lack of ability to empathize or relate to others make it extremely hard for their relationship to work.
Stiller does turn in a fine performance, but nothing to the level of Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married. Those who are used to seeing him play idiotic and neurotic will find it interesting to see how just a few tweaks to his style results in something entirely different. Gerwig turns in an equally good performance, though her character is much more subdued.
Unfortunately, Stiller's character is downright cruel at times with no redeemable qualities to speak of. A protagonist, even when troubled, has to offer something for the audience to appreciate. In this vein, Greenberg comes off a lot like Baumbach's last movie Margot at the Wedding, which featured Nicole Kidman in a completely unappealing role.
To be fair, Greenberg is a much better movie than Margot at the Wedding. As unlikable as the character is, there is a morbidly enthralling quality about the picture. There are moments of genius and glimmers of witty humor; they just don't solidify into a complete package.
Greenberg is entertaining at times, but its depressing and dark nature make it hard to recommend to the average moviegoer. Baumbach needs to learn to lighten up and give some likable qualities to his flawed characters.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.