Writer/Director Noah Baumbach is one of the most critically acclaimed independent filmmaker working today. His films are often humorous takes on life with characters that are painfully honest and real. His muse and frequent collaborator Greta Gerwig co-stars with Ben Stiller as the title character of Roger Greenberg. Stiller is most known for starring in big
Hollywood comedies, but here he takes on a much darker and serious role as an aging man trying to get his life back together.
Just released from a psychiatric hospital Roger agrees to house sit for his brother whose vacationing with his family in
Vietnam. Roger is a neurotic, quirky, and a darkly pessimistic character who used to live in New York and is still readjusting to life in Los Angeles. Roger has a run-in with his brother's assistant Florence (Gerwig) when the dog Mauler has an emergency. She is equally quirky and lonesome. She also sings at a local club. Roger gets to know her and while having drinks utters the perfect line "Life is wasted on... people". They eventually have a very awkward and short-lived sex scene. Roger is one of those people who has trouble making decisions and taking responsibility in his life. A constant theme in Baumbach's work is the Gen X'er's inability to grow up and let go of the past and embrace who you've become.
In a moment of desperation, Greg tries to reconcile with his ex-wife Beth but is shot down. With his relationship with
Florence is up in the air he finds himself resorting to his old destructive ways. He throws a party at the house in a hopeless attempt to recapture his youth. He is always looking for an easy way out, a suicide attempt was what led him to the psych ward, to begin with. The morning after brings him two opportunities and he must make a decision that will change his life. Is he ready to be a responsible adult? or will he continue on his impulsive and destructive path?
"Greenberg" is a well acted, well made film that is enjoyable if not a little painful at times. It feels honest and relatable. In 2014 Baumbach re-teamed with Stiller on the film "While We're Young" a sort of companion piece to "Greenberg". A review is forthcoming.