Review: Greenberg

Blu-ray: Greenberg (2010)

GreenbergBluFlorence (Greta Gerwig) is an assistant and general dogsbody for the Greenberg family. She cares for their children, picks up their groceries, keeps their house clean and appears to be at their beck and call. The family are going on holiday and whilst they are away Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) is going to house sit. He is a former musician, recovering from a mental breakdown who spends his days as a carpenter and writing letters of complaint to companies regarding their poor service. He and Florence develop a friendship but, will his peculiar personality and her awkwardness get in the way of romance?

I had a feeling within the first 10 minutes of the film starting that I was in pretentious, arty, navel gazing territory. It’s almost like director Noah Baumbach is trying too hard to impress upon us the emotions of the characters, which ultimately feels ham fisted and obvious.

There are many examples of this, such as the way the camera lingers on the face of Florence as she drives her car. Baumbach attempts to convey her mood showing that she is happy because another driver has let her in oncoming traffic, and she’s having a bad day because she’s been cut off. Some scenes go nowhere, such as she is taking the dog for a walk; and that is it. I guess this is to show that Florence is a bit lonely and only really connects with an animal.

Worse of all is the character of Greenberg himself. The problem I had (to put it bluntly) is that he is such an unlikable shitbag that I didn’t give a toss about him or what he was going through. He is so utterly self-obsessed, self-centred and narcissistic that I couldn’t feel any degree of empathy. The film is full of affluent people who complain and mope about their lives and yet don’t appear to have anything really to complain about.

The shining light in the movie is Greta Gerwig, who plays Florence as someone who seems uncomfortable in her own skin and doesn’t quite know her place in the world. The film hinges on her relationship with Greenberg which was another form of irritation, because somehow she is attracted to him despite him being nothing short of vile to her. Rhys Ifans is watchable as a long suffering friend to Greenberg, but that is as far as the positives go.

There are very few films that irritate me as I am watching them but, Greenberg was a real chore. I had to take a break after about 40 minutes as nothing had really happened and I felt myself getting more annoyed as it went on. Despite it being described as a comedy, I didn’t laugh once or even raise a vague smile.

I have a feeling that people are either going to love or hate Greenberg and as you can tell it wasn’t for me. If I could recommend films about awkward relationships, people who have problems and generally feature some soul searching then I would direct you to watch Chasing Amy, Rushmore, Magnolia, Eagle vs Shark, Punch Drunk Love, Little Miss Sunshine and Adventureland. Alternatively, if you fancy an ensemble cast featuring Ben Stiller being an utter prick, and a star turn from Jason Patric then check out Your Friends and Neighbours.

Review by Chris (co-host of 60 Minutes With and The Same Coin) from a disc kindly supplied by Fabulous Films.