‘Greenberg’ – Movie Review

Is it devaluing this movie to call it a dark-hued off-beat rom-com, I asked myself as I sat down and prepared to bang out this quick review. I decided I didn’t care enough to ponder the question at any length. And I mean any length. So let’s start again…


Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) is a 40ish misfit who has a few balloons floating loose in the cranial sky. At least he did have – he’s recovering from a nervous breakdown, which necessitated his institutionalization. Rog has left his home and carpenting job in New York to look after his older and more successful bro’s home in L.A. while he and his family are away on holidays in Vietnam. The house-sitting opportunity has come at a good time. Greenberg is at a crossroads in his life, and is taking time out to ‘do nothing’ and hopefully find some direction. (Sound familiar?)

Enter bro’s assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig), much younger, but also a bit of a lost soul. Well, you can guess the way things head, more or less (probably less).

It’s not really the romantic stuff that is interesting here, though. Greenberg’s the focal point. You’ll recognise his type: misanthropic angsty misfit whose jaundiced take on the world lays bare the bullshit for us all to see afresh. Add a bit o Woody Allen here, a bit o Larry David there, give it some freshness through Ben Stiller’s performance, which is as quirky, humorous and entertaining as always…you getta the picture?

I enjoyed Stiller’s character because it was a conglomerate of my male friends – and moi. Compulsive letter writer of eloquent complaints (take a bow, J); compulsive hand-washer and cleanliness freak who is not actually all that clean (stand up, S and L); hyper-reactive to criticism, the default defensive strategy being extravagant self-praise (you again, S and L…ah, and J…and R…oh, OK, and moi goddamit). Really, though, recognising the traits of me and me mates as they emerged in Greenberg was my primary source of amusement. Does this mean the humour of this movie is limited to the rampant dysfunctionals in the audience? Who knows…

The writing’s quite good, with enough wit and curmudgeonly humour to keep things bubbling, and some clever lines. I found Greta Gerwig’s acting weak at times (down with ‘mumblecore‘), but to be fair, she’s trying to make the best of a character I have to admit I found pretty dippy and irritating.

There’s a nice meeting of generations when Greenberg’s brother’s daughter from an earlier union takes over the house to throw a party for her late teen/early 20s buddies. Greenberg’s paranoia at the confidence and assumed success of the fresh young Gen Y thangs surrounding him is enjoyable, as are his remarks about the oh-so-diligent and indulgent parents that spawned them.

Really, though, there’s not a lot to this movie. Go without great expectations, and you’ll probably have some fun with it. It ain’t bad – but it ain’t of great consequence, either.

For other Boomtown Rap movie reviews, see Movie Review Archives

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