Greenberg (15)

Written and directed by Noah Baumbach
Screening at FACT from 11th June 2010

Reviewed by Charles McIntyre

Five years on from the splendidly executed The Squid and the Whale, Noah Baumbach has reprised the role of writer/director to give us Greenberg.

The film follows the exploits of the seriously confused social outcast Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), who since suffering a nervous breakdown has decided to commit himself wholeheartedly to “doing nothing”.

Whilst house-sitting for his brother in L.A., he strikes up an unlikely - and cringingly awkward - relationship with his brother’s assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig). What ensues is the familiar dissection of a ‘human crossroads’, where pivotal moments weave the fabric of the plot. These events are always imaginative and unobvious, but sometimes the creeping subtlety of Baumbach’s observation slows the pace of the film to a virtual standstill. This is effective in demonstrating Greenberg’s stagnant and misguided frame of mind, and indeed the apathetic mood of his surroundings, but sometimes dims the comedic punch lines to a fractional level of their potential.

Character interaction is crucial to the film’s success and the compelling - if far too infrequent - appearances of Jennifer Jason Leigh as Greenberg’s ex-girlfriend Beth, and the brilliant Rhys Ifans as former band partner Ivan, deliver a satisfyingly rich level of depth.

Stiller is surprisingly convincing as the neurotic, skinny Greenberg and his comic timing is used to good effect throughout the film, particularly alongside the unfathomable antics of Florence.

The film works as a Baumbach piece, but strangers to his work may take a while, or even a second viewing, to enjoy the film to its full potential as it simply doesn’t possess the engrossing set pieces that were so abundant in The Squid and the Whale.

Printer friendly page

Sorry Comments Closed