REVIEW: Greenberg

17 01 2011

Noah Baumbach set the bar sky-high with his incredibly personal and deeply moving 2005 movie “The Squid and the Whale,” a very funny but very serious look at divorce from the perspective of the affected children.  Ever since then, he’s struggled to raise that bar.  It’s hard to live up to expectations when they are so big, and because comparison is inevitable, every Baumbach movie to follow his Oscar-nominated effort will have to live in its shadow.

Greenberg” isn’t terrible, but it’s a confused mixture of comedy and drama that strikes strange and unpleasant chords one too many times.  The movie emulates the mayhem of the mid-life crisis as 40-year-old Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) pathetically wanders through life without aim.  His brother tries to get him on track by letting Roger housesit while his family relocates to Vietnam to open a hotel, and the escapades that follow boil down to the misanthtropic Roger running in circles around his own neuroses.

He tries to make peace with his past, particularly an old love (Jennifer Jason Leigh, who co-wrote the movie).  He tries experimenting with a relationship again, and it’s thankfully with someone off-color enough to tolerate his antics (Greta Gerwig in a charming breakout role).  He stupidly indulges in his own self-pity and self-centeredness.

Roger Greenberg is an unpredictable and volatile character that Ben Stiller plays with a fair amount of pathos and humor.  Yet there’s little development of the character and an even smaller arc, which could be the point.  Even with Stiller trying his best, he can’t keep “Greenberg” from being a barely likable movie about unlikable people.  Try again, Noah Baumbach.  C+

Random Factoid #253

7 04 2010

The inspiration for this factoid came from The M0vie Blog reporting that there have been so many people demanding refunds for “Greenberg” that L.A. theaters have had to post signs about it (such as the one on my left).

I have never been so upset by a movie that I have gone to the ticket counter and demanded a refund.  I was actually quite tempted to do so on Friday for “Clash of the Titans,” but there was more to it than that.  Look for more on my experience in a future factoid.

But based on the quality of a movie alone, I have never gone to demand a refund.  Usually I’m mad at myself for seeing the movie; I have a hard time blaming the theater owners.

Hopefully I’ll never have to declare this factoid false.  But what about you?  Anyone seen the movie that really is that bad?

(Oh, and another random little tidbit: I wouldn’t have found this amusing post had it not been for Anomalous Material’s review of “Greenberg.”)