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Movie Review: Greenberg March 23, 2010

Posted by judylobo in Dogs and cats, Movie Reviews, Movie Trailer.
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Movie Review: Greenberg

Alternate Title: What’s Eating Roger Greenberg?

Story: Poor Roger Greenberg. He is 40, a failed rock musician, now a carpenter, just got out of a New York hospital post nervous breakdown and is spending six weeks house and dog sitting for his very successful brother in the Hollywood Hills. Roger is directionless, angry, mean and wonders how he got to this point in his life. Director Noah Baumbach is finely tuned into this special narcissistic and emotionally wounded type of character. I loved his film, The Squid and the Whale and hated his film, Margot at the Wedding. This film was written by Mr. Baumbach, based on a story by Mr. Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

So what is good about the film? If you are of a certain age (around 40) and are beginning to wonder if this is all there is. If you are questioning the fact that life does not hold out the wonder and promise that had been previously advertised then I suggest you get a ticket and plunk yourself down in the theater. However, if you are much younger, be prepared to see nothing much happen up there on the big screen. Nothing blows up except for an occasional Roger Greenberg hissy fit. My 30 something movie buddy told me that 10 years ago he would have hated this film because ‘nothing happens’ but now – really enjoyed the film. If you are much older, like me, you tend to want to slap these whiny characters upside the head and tell them to ‘snap out of it.’

Some of us know a character like Roger Greenberg and probably do not have him as a friend on Facebook. His ups and downs are dangerous to other people’s health. Young Florence, his brother’s personal assistant, is silly putty in Roger’s hands and he treats her poorly. Thankfully, nothing terrible ultimately happens to the dog he is taking care of while house sitting. I liked this film more while watching it than when I got home. The more I thought about the main character, the angrier I got. Like Roger, who is a chronic letter writer (the best part of the film) I wanted to write a nasty letter to Noah Baumbach, but did not. This review will have to suffice.

Noah Baumbach has carved out a niche for himself that will appeal to a large, white, affluent audience. There are some laugh out loud moments, especially while Greenberg is writing his complaint letters. His targets include American Airlines, Starbucks and Mayor Bloomberg. Greenberg is such a throwback he still writes these letters and looks for them in the New York Times’ Letters to the Editor column. Most other people start their own blogs dedicated to their on again off again rants (sound familiar)?

Will Greenberg change? Does he have the capability to move on? Check out the film and decide for yourself.

Acting: Ben Stiller is quite successful as Roger Greenberg. His performance is sharp but his usual screen persona is so strong I tended to think he was going to break out and do some sort of shtick. Greta Gerwig as Florence Marr, was vacuously fine. Rhys Ifans as former college friend Ivan Schrank gave his usual fine performance. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Beth, seems to finally be emerging from that drug addled movie character she has played for so long.

Trivia: Noah Baumbach was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of novelist/film critic Jonathan Baumbach and Village Voice critic Georgia Brown. He graduated from Brooklyn’s Midwood High School in 1987 and received his B.A. from Vassar College in 1991. He had been with Jennifer Jason Leigh for four years prior to their marriage. Jennifer Jason Leigh was born in Los Angeles, and was the daughter of actor Vic Morrow – worked in her first film at the age of nine, in a nonspeaking role for the film Death of a Stranger. At 14 she attended summer acting workshops given by Lee Strasberg and landed a role in the Disney TV movie The Young Runaways, and received her Screen Actors Guild membership in an episode of the TV series “Baretta” when she was 16. Jennifer performed in several TV movies and dropped out of Pacific Palisades High School six weeks short of graduation for her major role in the film Eyes of a Stranger. Her first major success came as the female lead in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).

Predilection: None

Critters: Mahler the dog is wonderful.

Sex Spectrum: Fumbling, awkward, unloving encounters galore.

Blatant Product Placement: Apple, Corona Lite.

Soundtrack: An interesting selection of tunes.

Opening Titles: Titles are superimposed over Florence’s drive to her employers house.

Visual Art: Lots of fine details in these upscale Hollywood Hills homes.

Theater Audience: Mostly made up of 30 somethings and a few AARP members like me.

Weather: Apparently it does rain in California.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: Greenberg’s moods made me squirm.

Drift Factor: I drifted somewhere in the middle.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: No

Big Screen or Rental: Rental would be fine.

Length: Under two hours.

LOBO HOWLS: 7

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Comments»

1. Andrew - March 23, 2010

I found myself laughing at Greenberg’s mortifying encounters with other humans while cringing at the same time. It’s the kind of mixture of compassion and and embarrassment I feel for the lead character in The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm. For all three characters it’s almost as though they’ve fallen victim to some kind of involuntary time travel. In Greenberg’s case it may have been actual involuntary commitment to a mental hospital. But his social interactions, his tastes, his aspirations are all calibrated to an earlier era. Greenberg is a man out of place, and he’s utterly disoriented by it. He can no more ‘snap out of it’ than could a Japanese tourist arriving in, say, Dallas. Re-acclimation to social life has to happen slowly and incrementally. And Greenberg hasn’t lost his bearings entirely. His letters, though seemingly trivial, reveal a sense of civic commitment and responsibility, and I think that points him in the right direction. In the end, this is a hopeful story about the prospects for recovery from prolonged social isolation. I’m going to go way out on a limb here and call Greenberg the whiny, privileged, white guy’s Precious. 😉

2. CMrok93 - May 19, 2011

Well saw it the other day and while portions of the movie are slow the concepts presented are interesting, but they’re never fully fleshed-out. It’s also not for everyone but I have to say I did like how well this guy was developed. Good review, check out mine when you can please!


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