Friday, July 30, 2010

Under 250: Greenberg

I missed Greenberg in its theatrical run.  At the time, I was rather upset about this.  I kept tentatively penciling in times to go see it, but I never made it.  Busy times, you know.  I'm a big Noah Baumbach fan.  Squid and the Whale, Kicking & Screaming, the work he's written collaboratively with Wes Anderson (Life Aquatic, Mr. Fox); absolutely love it.  The droll pedant characters, the East Coast atmospherics, the sardonic humor, the soundtrack selections; it typically all works for me.  I even generally enjoyed the much derided Margot at the Wedding.  All that said: I was pretty disappointed with Greenberg.  I've been thinking, since I watched Greenberg a few weeks back, about what it was that turned me off about it, and I still can't quite figure it out.  In pieces, it seems to work.  Ben Stiller plays his toned down role as the titular misanthropic mid-life slacker pretty well.  He's vacant, difficult, absolutely churlish, and unlikeable.  Mumblecore sweetheart Greta Gerwig, too, is irritatingly self-effacing, and good at it.  There's some clever repartee and some bold moves taken in terms of how deep into Greenberg's complete lack momentum...but ultimately, the film hit a sour note for me and was less than satisfying.  Greenberg didn't feel on.  The cultural references failed to resonate and I think, maybe, that I just didn't believe the strange relationship cultivated between Stiller and Gerwig's characters.  It was as if the actors did such a good job of portraying their characters individually that, when they came together, you felt the outside puppeteering hand of the writer/director. It's a strange sensation, to look at a movie and know, just know, that that's just not quite how these people would fall into it...but there it is.  Greenberg's second half picks up a little more than its introduction, but ultimately lacks something in terms of screen presence.  The movie is all about the angst of its characters and fails, perhaps, to really build a structured narrative on which to support them.  They're floundering, but it doesn't feel profound or especially purposeful, not like the searching, desperate floundering of the college graduates in Kicking & Screaming or the Berkman family in Squid and the Whale.  Lackluster, plain and simple.

1 comment:

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