I love this film (and intend to watch it at least once more) and I really want to know what you think of my first proper video. I have a long way to go to find my own distinctive voice I know, but I’m now finally up to speed on iMovie and have made a start! I may not know the book terribly well (I had help here), but it made no difference at all to my enjoyment of this very special, off-beat film.
Expect to see plenty of videos coming soon, sometimes films, sometimes political diatribes, sometimes rebuttals to people on Twitter or elsewhere. I don’t have ambitions to be the next Jonathan Ross, but your suggestions on how to develop my reviews for a start would be really helpful! Comment here, Twitter or on YouTube!
10/10 by the way
It’s a quirky old film is Greenberg. And its quirkiness is both its success and failing – the film neatly refuses to fit into any particular genre – is it a man/dog buddy movie? Is it a character study? A diatribe about the failings of current society for the current 40′s generation? The answer is never clear. This defiance also makes it hard to emotionally invest in – without a clear beginning, middle and certainly no end, what is the point in watching Greenberg? Well considering nothing ends up really happening to him by the story’s end, you could easily say there is none, but my answer is this: Ben Stiller. It’s something which quite shocked me – I’ve strongly disliked Ben Stiller and hated his performances for years, but his intensely unlikeable Roger Greenberg is a character I found myself fascinated by and one I warmed to despite myself.
Screenwriter-director Noah Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Greenberg is a 41 year old man consumed by the errors of his past and the irritations of the modern world. Recently released from a mental hospital, Greenberg housesits for his brother and family. He forges an awkward relationship with their au pair Greta Gerwig and pursues his strained friendship with former bandmate Rhys Ifans, all the while writing letters of complaint to people or institutions which don’t meet his expectations. There’s little else to the film than an investigation of these relationships – his old friends no longer want to know him since he refused a lucrative recording contract when they were young, ex-girlfriend Leigh doesn’t want to know him because of his abusive behaviour, and Ifans perseveres even though Greenberg is so self-obsessed he hasn’t even met his child. But Gerwig falls for him regardless, even when he pushes her away, consumed by self-hatred and an unwillingness to be loved. This element is a fascinating look at how others can see in us qualities which we ourselves cannot, and how we can tear ourselves apart regardless.
There’s no ending – Greenberg has things happen to him, but even by the ending it’s unclear if he’s ever going to embrace the lessons which are there in front of his face. And this is the one big frustration of the film – it’s largely Greenberg’s (or is it Baumbach’s?) stream of consciousness, with some poignant moments and superb acting, but not much else. Some people will love it, others will hate it (Stiller is determinedly unlikeable from beginning to end) – this is not a happily-ever-after film. It does however have something to say about the human condition though – Greenberg is able effortlessly to take care of his brother’s dog when he can’t take care adequately of himself, Ifans of all people realises settling down isn’t the conformist nightmare he’d feared when confronted by Stiller, and Gerwig manages to makes a stab at happiness without even bothering with these existential issues. In fact there’s far too little Gerwig.
Ultimately it’s a sad film, which, like The Road before it, is a depressing experience, but it also shares that film’s knockout performances and honest indie craftsmanship. The story could never really be neatly wrapped up after all, and by that point Baumbach has unquestionably said all he needs to say about being about being a forty-something man in the 21st century. It would still have been nice to have had a clear beginning, middle and end though.