By Aaron Fenn
In the opening minutes of “Greenberg,” Florence Marr, played by
“mumblecore darling” Greta Gerwig, drives down the crowded streets
of Los Angeles and asks the car next to her, “Are you gonna let me
In the final minutes of the film, Marr looks at Roger Greenberg
and says “This is you.” On the surface, those two lines of dialogue
could mean next to nothing.
However, in the hands of writer and director Noah Baumbach, they
become crafted into something that rich novels are made of.
Ben Stiller plays Greenberg who is depressed, fresh out of rehab
for a mental breakdown, and heads to L.A. to babysit his brother’s
Greenberg intentionally does not have a job.
Instead, he spends his days building a doghouse, drinking and
writing complaint letters to large corporations.
In a letter to Starbucks he simply states: “Dear Starbucks: In
your attempts to manufacture culture out of fast food coffee,
you’ve been surprisingly successful for the most part. The part
that isn’t covered by ‘the most part,’ sucks.”
His life begins to take an unexpected turn, however, when he
meets Marr, his brother’s “pseudo-modern-maid.”
She too is not very happy and has been hurt one too many times
in terrible relationships.
Marr and Greenberg begin to form an interesting and completely
realistic relationship as they try to see if their “two wrongs” can
make a “right.”
“Greenberg” is not a film about happy people. Greenberg is a
depressing person; He’s not exactly the life of the party.
He often says things that are hurtful and appears to have little
to no desire to have fun anymore.
Marr is also an unhappy person but in comparison to Greenberg,
she’s a beaming ray of sunshine.
“Greenberg” offers much more than what is on the surface.
The film is darkly comical, wholly realistic, and incredibly
dense and thought provoking.
It’s a film that illustrates how embracing the life one never
thought possible could completely change one’s entire world.
The major strength of “Greenberg” is the screenplay.
Baumbach, directed “The Squid and the Whale and “Margot at the
Wedding,” knows how to create these types of sad characters, but
These aren’t just characters unfolding on screen; these are real
Stiller plays Greenberg with such subtlety and nuance, which
make his character’s outbursts and comments on society hit home in
an all too familiar way.
Gerwig, however, is the true beacon of the film.
Gerwig is absolutely brilliant in her commanding performance as
Marr. She feels so genuine, sweet, and warm in each and every
“Greenberg” is a film that begs to be examined deeper than what
Baumbach gives his audience.
The film feels like a rich novel filled with metaphors and
symbols for those willing to look hard enough to find them.
“Greenberg” is the type of film that may not affect some people,
but then again, it may have others waking up tomorrow morning,
looking into the mirror and realizing for the first time: “this is
Final rating: 4 out of 4 stars
Reach Aaron Fenn at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy of Focus Feature
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