Greenberg (15)

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Review byMatthew Turner10/06/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

Enjoyable character study from writer-director Noah Baumbach that makes up for its relative lack of plot with a superbly written script and terrific performances from Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig and Rhys Ifans.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding), Greenberg stars Ben Stiller as depressive part-time carpenter Roger Greenberg, who comes to LA to house-and-dog-sit for his successful brother (Chris Messina) while recovering from a nervous breakdown. When he meets his brother's 20-something personal assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig), Roger makes a move on her and they begin a tentative relationship, despite the inauspicious start of a disastrously half-hearted sexual encounter.

Meanwhile, Roger reconnects with his old friend Ivan (Rhys Ifans) and obsessively pursues his ex-girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Jason Leigh), despite the fact that he's meant to be dating Florence.

The Good
Stiller is superb as Greenberg, ditching the usual trappings of his comic persona to play a more realistic character who somehow manages to be both infuriating and pitiable at the same time – it's as hard for us to warm to Greenberg as it is for the people around him, but, like them, we somehow sense that it's worth the effort. Rising star Greta Gerwig (graduating to mainstream films after a spell as the go-to girl for the mumblecore crowd) is equally good as the warm-hearted Florence, who nonetheless has a few troubles of her own, while Rhys Ifans is wonderful as Greenberg's long-suffering best friend.

The script is dialogue-heavy rather than plot-heavy but there's still plenty to chew on, particularly Greenberg's guilt at splitting up his about-to-make-it-big band all those years ago, for which his ex-bandmates (Ifans and Mark Duplass as Eric) still haven't entirely forgiven him.

The Great
Baumbach orchestrates some terrific scenes. Highlights include: a painfully embarrassing sex scene; a sweet scene when Florence meets Greenberg and Ivan for dinner; Greenberg trying to be cool at a party full of 20-somethings; Greenberg's excruciating date with Beth; and a moving, albeit seemingly half-hearted climactic exchange between Greenberg and Ivan that perfectly encapsulates their friendship and is all the more powerful for being understated.

Worth seeing?
Greenberg is a superbly written, impressively directed and drily funny character study with terrific performances from Stiller, Gerwig and Ifans. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 04:33

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