BEN STILLER GRETA GERWIG RHYS IFANS
Usually I am critiquing comedy slave Ben Stiller for his awful choice in slapstick or family films. Greenberg is certainly a different type of film for him, it’s a dark comedy written in completely dark artistic humor as only Noah Baumbach can write and direct. Jennifer Jason Leigh co-wrote and produced the film which explains the departure from some of the elements we typically see in a Baumbach film. Greenberg is a type of yuppie, want to be As Good As It Gets for a new generation. Stiller who just flat out lacks any type of real acting talent fails in this role just as bad as Night at the Museum. He lacks humor and the important connection with the audience.
After being released from a mental hospital 40 year old Roger Greenberg (Stiller) flies to Los Angeles (he is from New York) to stay at his successful brother’s house for a few weeks to do absolutely nothing and recoup. Roger who is depressed and extremely OCD spends much of his type playing around with carpentry and writing consumer complaint letters to various businesses like American Airlines because of their faulty buttons that recline the chair. Roger takes an interest in his brother’s family assistant, a 25 year old named Florence (Gerwig) who finds Roger both old, irritating and very interesting. Roger tries to reconnect with former friends he has abandoned in the city but keeps returning to Florence who seems to be his only reason to strive toward normalcy.
Baumbach’s leading roles usually contain characters with some disorder or set back that makes them obnoxious yet intriguing. Nicole Kidman’s role in Margot at the Wedding (also starring Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a prime example of this, or Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale. As usual though these quirky scripts seem to appeal to a small group of film, as if it’s a joke where someone says “you would have to be there”. Stiller’s willingness to try something new and outside the box is commendable but another actor cast in this role would have made the film substantially more interesting and appealing.
The film has been compared to Woody Allen’s Manhattan which I thought was one of Allen’s less than great films. Going back to the As Good As It Gets character, Nicholson’s role even with all is unlikeable qualities still managed to make the audience adore him, Stiller annoys the audience in the worst way and his outbursts, drug use, and erratic behavior are so unbelievable and contrived that it’s difficult to accept his character as anything but a farce.
Final Thought – Stiller steps out of the norm but fails to deliver again.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Jennifer Gih