Saturday, April 10, 2010
The latest drama from writer/director Noah Baumbach, stars Ben Stiller who turns in a terrific performance as the title character. The problem is, that while his performance is stellar, Roger Greenberg is a self absorbed, unlikeable 40 year old trying to restart his life after a breakdown and he's not fun to watch.
As the film began, I found myself hating every minute of it but then a funny thing occured. Mr. Stiller, playing against type makes this irritating, post breakdown, and almost comatose, character sympathetic. Greta Gerwig plays Florence, a personal assistant to Roger's brother and a potential love interest for Greenberg. Florence has her own neurosis to deal with and their very odd courtship becomes fascinating to watch.
Rhys Ifans plays Ivan, an old friend of Greenberg's and like Florence and Greenberg, he too lacks energy and drifts in and out of his scenes. And yet, you find yourself rooting for him to succeed with his own demons as well. It's a strange film where most of the characters lack any appeal but you are drawn to them anyway.
I can't count "Greenberg" as one of Mr. Baumbach's best. He co-wrote it with his wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh (who has a small role as Greenberg's ex-girlfriend). They have created unlikeable characters in awkward situations that don't do much to redeem themselves. But there is something brewing beneath the surface that keeps you engaged and that is also a testament to the fine acting by Mr. Stiller and Ms. Gerwig.