Film: Greenberg

Posted on November 30, 2010


Directed by Noah Baumbach (2010)
jusco’s Rating: ★★

Roger Greenberg is trying his best to keep calm and to stay under control. After all, it’s never easy stepping back into the flow of society after being locked up in a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown. He does alright, but there are times when he just snaps and lashes out against people closest to him, even if they may be the people he really cares and loves the most. Ben Stiller plays our main character in Greenberg, directed by Noah Baumbach (acclaimed for his previous film The Squid and the Whale, of which you can read my review here). I was expecting something on par with TS&TW but was let down. Though it was obviously Baumbach-esque, the film lacked the smart punch exemplified by TS&TW and there was a decrease in screenplay quality; I was dismayed by the low level of wittiness.

(Florence and Roger, both of whom can’t seem to figure out if there really is something going on between them)

Ben Stiller does a good job of bringing his character to life. Roger isn’t likable and personally I felt a bit more colour could have been added; but he may have been limited due to the writer’s preconceived notion of the character. The standout here, however, is Greta Gerwig who plays Florence, Roger’s brother’s family’s assistant (aka maid) and Roger’s ‘like’ interest (I deviate from the word ‘love’ because the serious stage of relationships is never reached by the two of them… for now). Florence, just out of college, is a likable, cheerful young lady. Greta Gerwig never overtly acts and manages to effectively portray Florence as someone genuine, like the cute girl you know from class.

(Florence, Ivan (Roger’s good friend), Roger laughing in a restaurant, one of the rare moments where everyone seems happy)

I grew confused. Florence was so sweet that I immediately supported her, which meant getting pissed at Roger for his inconsistency and at times, treating her like nothing. But as the film progressed, I knew I was supposed to sympathise with Roger, for always being on the wrong side of life and for being misunderstood by everyone else. So which way was I supposed to go? In the end, I failed to cheer Roger on. He was vulnerable and even pitiable, but I just couldn’t seem to like him. True, Florence might have felt something for him, might have seen something worth chasing after, but unfortunately I couldn’t. Instead, I was left wholly unsatisfied.

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Posted in: 2.5-stars, film