Greenberg (2010)

Makes Woody Allen seem cool.

At a crossroads in his life, New Yorker Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) takes time to figure things out and travels to Los Angeles, where he house-sits for his brother and forges an unlikely bond with his sibling’s assistant, Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig).

This is one of those films that in the early part of last year, was getting a lot of positive reception, and it was weird because it was a film starring Gaylord Focker. However, I can see why now.

The film is from writer/director Noah Baumbach who is one of those now renown, indie directors that people just can’t get enough of, and to be honest I don’t understand why, especially after watching this film. I did laugh every once and awhile, but the problem was I just didn’t get what this film was trying to say. Maybe it’s just because I’m 18 and I haven’t gone through my mid-life crisis or anything yet, but the point they try to convey didn’t come across me once, and I still don’t know what it was.

This guy Roger Greenberg is plain and simply, a dick. He is one of those neurotic dudes who always has something to bitch about, give insight on, and be unpleasant about, but for some reason, I enjoyed that all. I think Greenberg is a fascinating character not only because you wouldn’t want him showing up to your next dinner party but because all this anger and frustration that lies within him, comes out in the oddest ways, mainly because he doesn’t give a crap about his life and what he does with it. This is more of a character study, rather than an actual story, and for the most part it works because this main character, although an asshole, really was fascinating to watch.

I think for the most part, the reason I liked Greenberg so much was because of how Ben Stiller plays him. Jim Carrey did it, Adam Sandler did it, and hell even Will Ferrell did it, so now it’s Stiller’s time to go and shake his dramatic acting chops and does an excellent job. I could actually believe Stiller as this dick of a guy, and there are moments where it just seems like this guy has no idea what to do or say for that matter, and Stiller makes it all work so well. Greta Gerwig is good as the female lead, Florence, and I still don’t understand what all the hype around her is, but I must say I liked her. My main problem with these two in a romance is that the film doesn’t really capture what makes her so attracted to him in the first place, and why she keeps on going at it with him, if he’s constantly bitching and lashing out at random things. I wish the film took a couple more looks at this whole romance, but these two were very good together I must say. It’s always nice to see Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rhys Ifans back playing some major supporting roles as well.

Consensus: Greenberg may not have the most likable main character, and some major themes and elements to it’s story that clicks, however the cast is good, especially Stiller, and there are still enough fascinating things about this film to keep your interest.



  1. Hey Dan…good points all around here on a film that really doesn’t go anywhere. I mean you’re right when you say it is a character film and that Stiller is the single reason it works on some levels, though Greta Gerwig keeps the story in balance (or perhaps just off balance enough to be extraordinary and not succumb to the overly ordinary). I actually think she’s a good character actor though to be honest I’m not familiar with her other films (I haven’t seen Arthur and probably won’t any time soon). She also seems to be channeling Kate Winslet here and maybe that’s a good thing and maybe it’s not. I’m actually surprised that you bought the whole middle-aged malaise thing given your age (no offense) and this is probably the one thing that didn’t work for me simply because it’s a little too close to home – being a man of a certain age (have you seen that series?) and I think the last thing that is interesting to a viewer is watching a film that is too close to home. Maybe I’m wrong but that’s my thought of the matter.

    I do think this is a rental if for no other reason to acclimate yourself to the dramatic Ben Stiller. Actually, if you want to see a vastly superior film you should watch him in Permanent Midnight. A heavy film, very dark, but to be honest he is superb as a heroin addict Los Angeles writer – based on a true story about the guy who created the television series Alf (no, really.)

    Now I might just have to cover this film. Stay tuned.

  2. I liked this film though I agree that it’s not for everyone. Yet, it was the one film I wanted to see last year given that I went through some personal issues last year.

    Having seen it a few months ago, I found it to be a very compelling study of a man just lost in the world and falling for this unique young girl. Yes, the Greenberg character isn’t very likealbe and at times, selfish. Still, he is a caring person about how he helps Florence out as she is also unsure about her own direction in life.

    It’s one of those films that you might not get at first but when you reach your 20s, it does become very confusing as this film got that confusion right on.

    • True! I think my age may contribute to the fact for me not being so knowing of all the themes here. But I’m glad you’re all fine and dandy my man!

  3. A large portion of people I spoke to about this film hated it, mostly because Ben Stiller’s character is so different from his normal typecast that “Greenberg” just wasn’t what they were expecting walking in. His character is also so dis-likeable that it is hard to invest the time in the film. I loved the film for some of the same reasons you touched on. This was Stiller’s version of “Punch Drunk Love”. My favorite films come from comedic actors being placed into serious roles. So, unfortunately, like most of Noah Baumbach’s films (who is also a favorite of mine), this film is disliked for being too real, too harsh, and not “Meet The Parents 4”. Too bad.

    • It’s good because Stiller is great and even though this character is unlikable, I still had a great time watching everything he did, and how he interacted with everyone around him.

  4. I’m 32 and can totally relate to him from time to time. I’m not a such a big Greenberg hater as some others are in here I found it both amusing and thoughtful. However, I had a hard time with his spontanious change in the end that sub-plot felt like it belonged to a completely different character.

  5. Good review. I agree, Stiller plays him really well but it is hard to get on board with him on a basic level as, as you said he is a dick. For me though, even at 20, it was – as Rory dean said above – a little close to home. It kind of served as a warning of things to come which may have meant that it affected me more than it would people who don’t identify with the character as much. Maybe this would have been the same of Florence as well if she were more developed but I think that level of identification was the initial basis for the attraction.

    • Thanks! I don’t quite know yet about all the themes here, but once I get older, I’ll make sure to check this out and see how I feel about it then.

  6. I like Noah Baumbach, he really makes interesting indie films, with great soundtracks too!
    You could be right, the film doesn’t really capture what makes her so attracted to him in the first place, when I see Greenberg again for my review I’ll try and look out for that.

  7. I hate this movie, bored me to tears. Though I have to admit there was a brief exchange of words I loved.

    “Youth is wasted on the young.”
    “I’d go further I’d say life is wasted on…people.”

    I thought that line was brilliant.

  8. I totally agree with you….the whole cast did a great job, but it is more of a character study than a story. Ben Stiller was so unlikable it overshadowed things for me, especially how terribly he treated poor, sweet Rhys Ifans. 😦
    Great review 🙂

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