Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Ben Stiller has been languishing in rom-com's for as long as I can remember. Sure, there was the occasional stroke of genius. Dodgeball, for instance, or Tropic Thunder. With his lead in Noah Baumbach's Greenberg, Stiller not only ditches the inane romantic comedies, he shows us a side of himself that we don't often see. And, for a bonus? We got a movie with a LOT of Greta Gerwig in it. Always a pleasure.

Gerwig plays a nanny/assistant to a rich couple who are leaving for Vietnam for an undisclosed reason. In their absence, the husband's brother, Roger Greenberg (Stiller), comes to stay out at the house for a couple of weeks so that he can ease back into life, after being in a mental hospital for a period of time. Gerwig's Florence meet's Roger when she comes over to pick up her check, which starts up a strange, sometimes endearing, sometimes tumultuous, relationship. Greenberg is also trying to reconnect with his old friends Ivan and Eric (played by Rhys Ifans and Mark Duplass), who were all in a band together, and even tries to hook up with his divorcee ex-girlfriend, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh (who looks considerably more cleaned up than in her past couple of movies).

Greenberg, and I mean the guy, not the movie, is a mess. He, obviously, does not know how to live life in any sort of meaningful form or fashion, and, instead, seems to work primarily on impulse. Stiller shows some real acting chops in this film, as he's able to cross the line into so many different emotions, seemingly on a dime. He hits every note of his Baumbach inspired dialogue and shows us that he's not just the funny guy. Greta Gerwig is always a pleasure to watch, and I think this is her best role since Nights and Weekends. She is at her insecure best, giving herself to this guy who is, probably, twenty years older than her, putting up with his crap, CONSTANTLY, and generally making all of the mistakes that twenty something girls make. Rhys Ifans was interesting to see in this role, because it is the most quiet and subdued role I have ever seen him in. Sure, I haven't seen him in a ton of stuff, but, of what I have seen, I was definitely blown away by his ability to truly show distance, sadness, and regret. Noah Baumbach is a greater writer and director. Not withstanding Margot At The Wedding, I really feel like Baumbauch's oeuvre is solid, and this is a great addition to it.

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