Sean K. Cureton

“I’m really trying to do nothing for a while.”

In Movie Reviews: 2010 on April 4, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Greenberg

Directed by Noah Baumbach

3 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

“I’m really trying to do nothing for a while.” This is the creed of Roger Greenberg, the title character from critically-aclaimed writer/director Noah Baumbach’s new film Greenberg. In the film, the audience is introduced to Roger, a neurotic and spiteful 40 year old man, battling with his own neurosis, fears, anxieties, and mental problems. The audience is told in the opening sequences of the film that Roger has only recently been released from a mental institution for a recent mental breakdown. The rest of the film revolves around him housesitting for his brother in LA, the town that he grew up in.

What is so great about this movie is how utterly disconnected Roger is from his own emotions and the world around him, and how even though he is constantly belittling people and treating even his closest friends, if you can even call them that, with complete and utter cruelty and disrespect, one finds them-self rooting for this oddball. The script is pitch-perfect, the characters are lovingly created, and the film is ultimately accessible to viewers both of Roger’s age, and viewers of the age of the kids at the party that Roger is so fearful of.

Ben Stiller truly shines in this role, as he does in most roles he takes on. His offbeat ramblings that come out of his mouth without any filtering are brilliantly biting, cynical, and enjoyable all at the same time. Among the most powerful scenes in the film is a scene in a restaurant where Roger’s birthday is brought to the attention of the waiters by his friend Ivan(Rhys Ifans). Roger is angered by this and delivers one of the funniest lines of the movie when he yells at Ivan as he leaves the restaurant saying “Sit on my dick you asshole!” This is one of the scenes, among many others, that truly shows the viewer how unhinged Roger has become, and how truly uncomfortable he is in the world, despite his need to connect with the people in it.

Gerta Gerwig is also phenomenal as Roger’s love interest, Florence. Her natural beauty and grace shines off the screen, and provides a comforting contrast of warmth and acceptance to Roger’s hardness. Her affair with Roger is truly remarkable, in that despite the fact that Florence obviously loves, or at least enjoys the company of Roger, Roger is so out of touch with himself that he can’t accept or see that he likes Florence as well. Instead, he leaves in a huff from her apartment in another beautifully crafted scene, claiming that she never has anything to drink, and that the story she was telling him was “The stupidest story I’ve ever heard.”

Noah Baumbach is truly an exceptional director. In Greenberg, he has created a story close to the narratives of J.D. Salinger, and in Roger Greenberg has created an older, modern day version of Holden Caulfield. It would be a grave mistake to miss seeing Greenberg, as it is truly one of the first great movies of the year, and the best film I’ve seen since last year’s Up in the Air.

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