Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) just finished his therapy at a psychiatric facility and returns from New York to Los Angeles. Until things look differently, he stays at his brother’s (Chris Messina) house. His brother, in the meantime, is on holiday. With only the family dog for company, Roger tries to reconnect with his old friend (Rhys Ifans) but in the end only finds some form of human connection in Florence (Greta Gerwig), his brother’s personal assistant/house keeper.
I know I’m probably losing all of my indie cred and any reputation I have built up as a film critic on this here blog but, dammit all: That movie was fucking boring. Yes, the cast was excellent but there’s only so much you can do without an actual plot.
Did you ever see The Anniversary Party? That was written by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming and directed by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming and starred Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming and it was a fucking wank-fest about a couple of actors who celebrate their anniversary, while they are actually dissecting the emptiness of life in LA. Or something. I’m not sure, since I couldn’t finish it because it bored me to tears. Fortunately, it was only a rental.
Unfortunately, I saw Greenberg at the movies, so I had a few scruples just walking out of there. And I had my sister with me and though she didn’t seem too happy with the film either, I don’t think she would have appreciated me just walking out. Anyway, Greenberg was exactly the same kind of movie. EXACTLY. The obnoxious “we’re all rich and beautiful but oh so lonely” kind. And I’m not saying that rich people don’t have their problems or that I don’t care on principle, but I so didn’t care for them in this film.
I think the problem was that I was supposed to sympathise with Greenberg and I just couldn’t. He was a narcisstic asshole (and I’m saying this as someone who a) has mental health problems, b) has relatives and friends with mental health problems and c) is prone to some navel-gazing herself) who had so little initiative it was mind-bending.
[And if I was not supposed to sympathise with Greenberg, I seriously don’t get the point of this film.]
Which makes it all the harder to understand why Florence would want anything to do with him.
At least the cast really was excellent. I’m surprised that the movie comes out now, since it’s definitely Oscar bait material for Ben Stiller. And he was terrific. As was Greta Gerwig.
Summarising: if you can get yourself to care for Greenberg-the-character, you’re probably going to enjoy Greenberg-the-movie. But I was utterly unable to.
As an aside: Although it’s of course not the fault of the movie makers, the audience I saw this with was absolutely weird. The guy next to my sister fell asleep about 20 minutes in and started to snore (at least it’s obvious that I was not the only bored person in the room) and a few seats away from me sat a woman who apparently saw a different movie than me. I think she saw a regular Ben Stiller comedy, since she was hysterically laughing every three minutes, completely unphased that no-one else in the audience was laughing with her.
Didn’t help my enjoyment of the film.