Greenberg - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Greenberg Reviews

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Super Reviewer
April 7, 2014
Perhaps it is an honest film, but not much fun to watch.
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2010
Baumbach has cemented himself stylistically with the likes of Wes Anderson because his films have their own cache of interesting and definitely flawed individuals. What his films lack in nuance and jarring cinematography, are made up for with their writing. These people do not have the same impact as some of the kooky and always blank faced characters of his past films. Instead of the sage sarcasm and indifferent irony of past films, it takes a look at the lives of Generation X nowadays. They're obviously aged, still rocking out to the same awesome music, but now these people are espousing the dreams of their lost generation much like their elders did to them twenty years ago. Roger Greenberg (Stiller) epitomizes a man going through a mid-life crisis, those that are trying to fit into a former generation, and those that have missed out on opportunities. "Greenberg" is a story that's been told various times, to an unhealthy extent, and though it's always interesting to watch the pitfalls of any sordid individual, Greenberg is not a strong enough character to hold an entire film. Most of Baumbach's films have had an ensemble cast with remarkable characters, but here most of them are pointless add-ons. His former friends barely have any lines, his brother's family is onscreen for mere minutes, and even Florence (Gerwig) is predictable. Roger Greenberg is supposed to be a bit eccentric, definitely guarded and anti-social, but these flaws do not make the character interesting. He's a bit misanthropic but not to an extent that makes him completely sealed off from the outside world, and he's not strange enough to make for an interesting character study. The party scene is really the only window into his psyche, but besides that there's very little to satisfy the viewer. Even Greta Gerwig, Baumbach's recent muse and girlfriend, doesn't have a character with any extinguishing characteristics, except that she likes Greenberg, and that she isn't living the life that her college education allows. There are certainly great themes to the film but this just isn't the story of a thoughtless pariah that one expects.
Super Reviewer
February 13, 2013
Florence Marr: Hurt people hurt people.

"He's got a lot on his mind."

Greenberg is a movie made in a style that a really enjoy. No real beginning, no real end, but only how life really goes. It's truly what we could call a "real life" movie. Now I can understand why many wouldn't have appreciation for a film like Greenberg. It doesn't care about creating laughs or tears, but only in presenting an unlikable character in Roger Greenberg. There's a lot of themes rolling out of this character, so if you like character driven movies, you should be able to like this one.

Roger comes back to LA from New York and is staying at his rich brothers place while he is on vacation with his family in Vietnam. His brother has a young personal assistant named Florence who was told that she may need to help Roger with some things and that he's just getting out of a mental hospital and is a little unstable. Roger and Florence begin seeing each other in an awkward and weird sort of way, while Roger struggles with some of his past disappointments and relationships.

The movie is slow and not strong on "entertainment." If you've seen any of Noah Baumbach's movies, you'll recognize it as his right of the bat. He uses characters that are sort of pretentious assholes that believe they know it all. Greenberg is a less pretentious(if only maybe because he isn't as smart) version of the father in Baumbach's masterpiece The Squid and The Whale. Greenberg doesn't quite reach the perfection of that movie, but it is still a really well made, interesting, and at least to me, great movie.

You gotta love Ben Stiller in another serious role after doing more silly shit than serious shit over the years. Also I really like Greta Gerwig who has her own demeanor on screen that comes across as very real. Rhys Ifans is just the cherry on top as far as the cast goes. As far story, there's not much needed and I appreciate movies that don't need that much story driven material. This one just let's the title character take over the movie and it works very well.
Super Reviewer
January 11, 2012
The movie Greenberg and the titular character are a lot alike. They have a lot to say, they are brutally honest, and many, many people won't like them. But honesty is a virtue, and Greenberg has that too spare. Its sort of been-done-before territory, reminding me especially of the more recent "Young Adult". In fact, the message and characters present here can be traced back directly to "The Great Gatsby," as the self-aware script references. So yes, Greenberg doesn't win any points for originality, and it certainly doesn't win any points for being a crowd pleaser. Its my kind of movie, though: well written and unafraid of the cold truth.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2011
A sweet story about a difficult, guilt-stricken person finding himself grounded and motivated by both affectionate love and loneliness - a similar concept/feel to Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love." By the end, this movie does two things well at the same time: provide us with implicit clues as to why Roger is so insensitive, and secondly, it develops a solid hope that he may change just enough for the people he cares about.
Kyle F.
Super Reviewer
August 15, 2011
Certainly a movie that is interesting and unique in itself. Just like The Social Network, Greenberg proves that movies about mean, unlikable people, though often hard to watch, can be much more interesting than movies centered on a hero. Greenberg makes you feel. It gives you a sense of the characters and their lives that's surprisingly deep for its running length. Although there isn't much of an arch to the story, it's not hard to become engrossed. Stiller is dark, complex, and a great centerpiece for the film. Gerwig is very likeable as well as relatable, and the rest of the cast suit their characters perfectly. The screen, though depicting ordinary locations, seems to swirl with colors, and the music compliments the footage very well.
All in all, it's a well done and well called for character movie that flies against the norms, something that many other films have tried to be and failed.
Super Reviewer
August 5, 2011
Although 'Greenberg' is well assured in strong performances by its cast, its complete lack of charm is so alienating that it makes the film a chore by its halfway-mark. Baumbach directs with a steady hand and probably achieves what he wants, but the entertainment value is very low. Its hard to find a reason to sympathize with some of the characters and their relationships. Its all so very depressing, but that might've been the goal all along. Its an honest portrayal at life and the psychological battles it offers.
Super Reviewer
May 24, 2010
The plot is disappointed and bored, this crappy drama film create characters who gain no sympathy, have no real emotional truth, are the bane of many contemporary films.
This movie is essentially no more than observing Roger's blundering path through life for a couple of weeks - there is no story as such. It certainly isn't a comedy - there is relatively little humour in it, and Ben Stiller's character isn't even slightly funny. His angry schtick reminiscent of Furious in Mystery Men. Greta Gerwig does a complex and unpredictable, but all in all quite sympathetic portrayal of Florence.
The events in the film unfold casually... so casually even the characters don't seem to notice. Birthday dinners, trips to the vet, and even abortions are all treated with the same numb detachment.
Super Reviewer
July 27, 2011
Who knew Ben Stiller could be a dramatic actor? Sure, he's had his share of victories at the box office as a lead actor, director and producer, but nothing came along that really made him stand out as a thought-provoking and inspiring artist. At least, nothing until Greenberg. I was reluctant to see this film - and even took a few days to completely finish watching it... but the impact the film left was considerable. Playing that "one" person that we all know and hate in our lives, Stiller took bigotry and shameless, near neurotic self-importance to greater heights. Funny, sad and even a tad inspiring, Greenberg is a fascinating film.
Super Reviewer
½ July 20, 2011
A neurotic misanthrope, staying in his brother's L.A. status-symbol-ridden house, looks to old friends and his brother's assistant to cure his loneliness.
I think the degree to which you like this film, and films like this (cf. Deconstructing Harry and Whatever Works), is predicated upon the degree to which you can identify with the main character even as you recognize his numerous flaws. If, for example, you've been motivated to write letters of complaint to every major corporation you've had to deal with, even as you recognize the annoyance you elicit and the futility of your action, then you might find a mutual humanity in Roger Greenberg. Likewise, if you've needed someone but also been repulsed by your own neediness, then the main plot of the film will resonate. Ben Stiller's performance as Greenberg is quite good; he captures the character's inner desperation and outer inability to connect with anybody. Stiller's rather natural charm is appropriately suppressed through most of the film, and I think there was room to make Greenberg occasionally more appealing, but director Noah Baumbach and Stiller must have thought that such moment would take away from the character's ire.
Greta Gerwig also delivers a strong performance as a woman whose sense of self has been painfully eroded, and I liked how even the supporting characters have lives outside of the plots involving Greenberg. In many films like this, it seems as though the supporting characters only support, with no independent lives.
The film's flaw is the ending. It is as though Baumbach believed that Florence's response was either a fait accompli or unimportant; either way, it short-changes her character and the film.
Overall, Greenberg, like the character, is a hard film to like but an even harder film to ignore.
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2011
The set up is a simple one - take a 40-year-old guy who has been exiled to New York for the last 15 years and then have him return home to LA. This allows the gentleman ample time to contemplate who he is, who he was and all kinds of other navel contemplations.

In Greenberg, Ben Stiller is the 40 year old, and for the most part the film does a fair job of mining those contemplative possibilities as he re-connects with old friends and romances. Unfortunately this is not the only theme of the film and it is the other theme, that includes one of those wacky, made in Hollywood kind of disassociative love stories - you know the type, where odd wacky girl is, for god knows what reason, smitten by our hero, even though he's a self centered ass who appears to have no respect for her feelings, or her person. Ah, but love conquers all - yep, this film has a bridge to sell ya, and it doesn't help that Stiller is recovering from a mental breakdown, and as such gets a big get out of jail free card - it's as if he has carte blanche to be a jerk and then everyone just smiles and gives him a pass because he's "troubled".

The direction of the film is adequate as far as it goes, trying to keep the script interesting while juggling the two themes. There is even a supporting character, that of Stiller's old best friend, who provides a moral center to the film - playing a man who had grown up and moved on and is already content with the person and life he has found - something that Stiller is still grappling with (hence the aforementioned breakdown).

If the film had only focused on these ageing and self realization issues instead of investing so much face time to the romance, it would have played much better. But alas, the romantic theme is front and center - to the point where the quirky, much younger female (played competently by Greta Gerwig) is the one on screen during the first fifteen minutes of the film - as if to say "yeah, we know that the name of the film is Greenberg, but it's really about this girl.

The girl unfortunately is more of a nut job in her own way than Greenberg - I guess the message was that she was supposed to be adrift in life as well, but gee golly, that's just what I wanted to see - two slightly crazy people falling for each other - doesn't it just tug at the old heartstrings? The entire romance would have been ok as a background bit on the road to self-discovery, but I felt it got in the way of the much more rewarding theme.

For example, there is a wonderfully done scene where Greenberg tries to re-connect with an old girlfriend. He tells her a story from his point of view concerning an event that happened 15 years earlier - it is obviously very important to him, as he remembers the smallest of details. But when he apologizes for hurting her over said incident, she looks at him oddly and then confesses that she doesn't remember the incident at all. Man, I've been there - something that was a very important event in my life, and something that I thought I had shared with someone special, I later found out wasn't even a blip on her radar screen- and yet conversely there were things she remembered fondly that I had totally forgotten. This was a powerful and true observation, but then the film mishandled the conclusion by having Greenberg hit on the girl in spite of all the evidence that their prior relationship was much more important to him than it was to her. And of course all this was in the middle of Greenberg's sorta on, sorta off relationship with Gerwig.

I suppose the ultimate message here is that we're all searching for connection - with our self and with others; but in attempting to tie it all up with a nice happy face and a "I'll settle" kind of love, the film failed in its attempt to truly soar.

One final point - Gerwig slouches through the entire film - whether this was her attempt to portray a younger, more uncouth woman, I still felt like yelling at the screen "stand up straight!!!"
Super Reviewer
½ March 19, 2011
Neurotic New York intelligensia again fall under Baumbach's critical lens but he makes it very hard for you to care about Stiller's narcissitic freak and Gerwig's victim mentality stretches credulity beyond breaking point.
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2010
Dysfunctional families and people share a common theme throughout writer/director Noah Baumbach's films. He focused on the dissolution of a relationship in "The Squid and The Whale", a destructive neurosis in "Margot At The Wedding" and now the disintegration of a personality with "Greenberg".
Following a nervous breakdown, New York carpenter Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) arrives in LA to look after his brothers family home and sickly dog. His path crosses with the family's young assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig), and an awkward relationship develops. He also tries to rekindle old friendships from when he was an up-and-comer quite some time ago.
Baumbach focuses yet again on neurotic behaviour and the fragility of a person crumbling under the weight of his own expectation and ambition. I wouldn't say that I'm all that keen on Ben Stiller but like Jack Black in "Margot at the Wedding", he puts all his irritating and outrageous send-ups aside and concentrates on acting. No, he doesn't get his dick caught in his zip or anything, but what he does do is show restraint and puts in a very nuanced and subtley brilliant dramatic performance. This director certainly knows how to get the best out of an actor and Stiller is not alone. Greta Gerwig is absolutely marvellous and produces one of the most natural and beautifully rich performances I've seen in a long time. This is an actress that deserves more attention. Rhys Ifans is also very endearing and adds depth and realism as Greenberg's long suffering friend. It's a trio of excellent performances, making the characters really come alive and Baumbach displays a talent for capturing the everyday perfectly, showing an affinity with Woody Allen in his sharp observations and neurotic characters.
Roger Greenberg as a character has a lot in common with Nicole Kidman's Margot in their social awkwardness and almost natural ability to hurt someones feelings and despite Stiller's excellent performance, that's what hinders the film slightly. He's a detestable, rude and egotistical man, that we are forced to spend a lot of time with, making it less enjoyable than the director's previous outings to angst-ville.
Despite the irritatingly self-absorbed character and his very privileged lifestyle this is still another refined and assured character study from the very talented Noah Baumbach.
Super Reviewer
March 5, 2011
I loved the way the film looked and thought that the entire cast does a good job, but the main character is so cynical and unlikable, that you really just wonder why the hell anyone would want to be around him ever. Ben Stiller is great at these type of characters, but the character's cynical nature almost seems forced. Are there people like this in real life? Absolutely, but to try to wrap your head around why someone is an asshole is not worth the effort. And why does every indie film have to have an abortion in it? Greta Gerwig and Rhys Ifans are also very good, but all I wanted them to do was run away from Greenberg or pull out a gun and end what had to be one of the most miserably hip lives I have seen on film.
Super Reviewer
February 28, 2011
3 stars
Super Reviewer
½ August 10, 2010
Like every other Noah Baumbach movie, the movie itself is a direct reflection of the characters whose stories are being told. Unfortunately Baumbach seems to love telling the stories of self-absorbed and pretentious dickbags. To Ben Stiller's credit, at least he's not playing one of the characters that are his bread and butter, dealing with museums or sociopathic fathers-in-law but Stiller's character is an angry, mentally unbalanced, dull and pretentious asshat who was never told he's nowhere nearly as interesting as he thinks he is. Greenberg's story can be described with said adjectives but the one who really shines is Greta Gerwig who radiates with a lost goofiness that's completely endearing to a character who couldn't exist in the real world. Rhys Ifans was great because he wasn't over the top and Jennifer Jason Leigh was just... eh. The dog's storyline was distracting and that party sequence was as annoying as it was unrealistic. I mean, who the hell listens to Korn anymore? And 40-somethings are so revered by teenagers. Greenberg had some great lines and some nice moments but the more I think about it the less I like it...
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2010
Greenberg features some decent work from Ben Stiller. This type of material is what he should be doing. Despite this, it all feels rather pointless. There isn't any reward for putting up with this terrible douche. On the other hand, I think I'm getting over my aversion to Jennifer Jason Leigh. Oh, another thing: I don't get what the fuss is about with Greta Gerwig. She's like a hipster Alicia Silverstone. Does someone agree with me? Am I just not "getting" it?
Super Reviewer
January 9, 2011
If you haven't seen Sofia Coppola's Somewhere yet, you probably have seen the trailer. As "I'll Try Anything Once" fits perfectly to the film, the same goes to "Please Don't Follow Me" and Greenberg. James Murphy' song couldn't translate better Noah Baumbach's movie. "Going, out, going out. Please don't follow me, because the way we met. Please don't follow me, because of the way that you act". Simple, sweet, melancholic. I'm sure sweet is not the proper word to describe it, but I love how honest and real the characters and situations are.

Without artifices, without huge happenings, Greenberg is as simple and "slow down" as life is. I wouldn't say Noah Baumbach is the new Woody Allen, but they sure share some similarities beyond the fact both were born in Brooklyn and have a taste for "neurotic intellectual characters". Los Angeles has a central role as New York does in Manhattan or both New York and Los Angeles in Annie Hall. Roger Greenberg feels so uncomfortable as Alvy Singer felt in LA, but he lacks of what I might say it's is the main difference between Allen's and Baumbach's characters: a certain lightness . Allen's are enjoyable neurotic people, when Baumbach's are mostly painful, like Margot and Bernard Berkman. However, I don't see Greenberg like the jerk depressing guy or whatever everyone is saying. He's only vulnerable , incapable of taking part in life, in a life he didn't plan on : "Are you pulling a Gatsby and watching the party from afar?", Ivan asks. "l don't know that l need to document the reasons how this isn't like a Gatsby", says Roger. It's hard to look back and admit you did the wrong choice, to embrace a life that is very far from what you expected. It's hard to be lost between an "adult and responsible" life all your friends are living and a new world where you don't seem to fit in.

"Are you kids really different from me? l mean, do the movies, and the iPods, and the facility with MySpace pages make you guys really different? Every article l read seems to be saying that. (...) The thing about you kids is you're all kind of insensitive. There's a confidence in you guys that's horrifying. l'm freaked out by you kids. I hope l die before l end up meeting one of you in a job interview".

I'm freaked out by those kids too and there's not even 10 years aparting us. There's definitely a confidence in them that's horrifying, but horrifying for being such an empty, meaningless generation. But ,hopefully, there's a happy medium. Florence is a sort of lost-somehow lonely- but full of life adorable young woman. She is not a complex or that interesting character, but she's so refreshing that is impossible to not like her. Greta Gerwig has such a lively and natural acting that she catches you in the first scenes, driving to the Greenberg's. There's something really nice about her and Florence definitely has a lot of Annie Hall. Like Allen's film is not only about Annie, Greenberg is not only about Roger, but if Annie "only exists" attached to Alvy (we only see her life without him, ex boyfriends, etc, through/because of him), Florence lives beyond Roger. The film opens with her and closes with him, in a very lovely scene (despite the title, both are main characters). She does bring life to his boredom, but not exactly in the common meaning of that saying: even if not purposely, she helps him to face himself. Hurt people hurt people, but some of us still can love them.

*F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, also mentioned in The Squid and the Whale, must really had been an important book to Baumbach. How much biographical is The Squid and the Whale? Or maybeBaumbach feels himself as Gatsby?

Super Reviewer
November 17, 2010
In 2010, Ben Stiller will have given us Little Fockers, Megamind, and Greenberg. Which of these films is not like the others (animation aside)? A refreshing return to the mature, intelligent Stiller we know exists but who so rarely comes out to play, Greenberg features one of his most comprehensive, consistent performances. Of course it went completely unnoticed because, in typical Baumbach style, he portrays a huge asshole in a sea of slightly more covert assholes, and no one wants to see that from him. It's unfortunate that people have so much trouble distancing an unlikable character from their own feelings about the movie - and don't get me wrong, Roger Greenberg is a thorough creep - because this is an acutely shot, wonderfully composed story about resolution and confidence. Though the obvious adherence to the Baumbach formula is a bit of a bummer (come on, dude, stretch your range just a little), I think this is his most sharply-observed work yet. Stiller aside, Baumbach gets some of the best performances of his oeuvre from his cast. Greta Gerwig is an excellent foil to his unapproachable, immature behavior; it's great that she's come so far from her mumblecore/House of the Devil days. I feel obligated to root for her because she's a Sacramentan, so forgive my bias, but her performance here is extremely strong. Her Florence is aimless, but resolute, and she knows how she wants to be treated and how to maneuver her way through the situation she finds herself in. The conflict of the story is whether or not she really wants to, though.

And on that note, how depressing is that ending? Posited as happy, I felt it left nothing but melancholy for us to dwell on. There's no way this implied future can be anything but miserable. Sad, sad stuff.
Super Reviewer
½ July 30, 2010
Noah Baumbach does not want you to enjoy his film, he wants you to experience it along with his characters. Roger Greenberg (an uncompromising Ben Stiller) is a man dealing with a rather large anxiety disorder and a general dislike for himself and the world he lives in. Since Roger is our protagonist, we are immersed in these feelings, making "Greenberg" a hard film to sit through. But thankfully, Baumbach is a competent writer (penning the screenplay with his wife, and one of the films co-stars, Jennifer Jason Leigh) and director that he keeps things visually interesting and psychologically complex. The supporting cast (especially Greta Gerwig, one of the films major strengths) adds a certain level of charm and human comedy to the picture, but none of it really helps you be entertained. "Greenberg" is a film for people who love pure, objective, character study. For what it is, it's a nice little film, just don't expect your average 'Ben Stiller Movie'.
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