Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Greenberg: Grade C


Greenberg (2009)
Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans. Co-writer and director Noah Baumbach.

Stiller is newly arrived in LA from a New York mental institution to housesit for his brother. He develops a relationship with a younger household assistant (Gerwig). She is passive and a dim bulb, so she more or less accepts Stiller’s hyper-neurotic obsessions and they form a friendly, sexually bumbling relationship that lacks the interpersonal intimacy that neither of them is capable of. And that’s it. Nothing happens of any consequence and there is no character development.

The strength of the film is the compelling dialog and extremely good acting, especially by Stiller. He really is a good dramatic actor, even though his part is still nominally comic in this story. Gerwig is a good actor but her character is so bland that she can’t do much. Ifans, as an old friend of Stiller’s is a standout. There are some subtle but not very funny jokes about LA, about dogs, about age anxiety, and so on. The script is extremely authentic, not clich├ęd, but clever as it is, it only concerns banalities. Nothing of import or interest is actually said. There is no story and no ending, so the movie just meanders pointlessly on. I didn’t get bored though because of the strong acting and sharp dialog, and it is worth seeing for those features, but I have to say this is a slow moving film.

The music direction and sound engineering are intrusive and destructive, with featureless tunes slowly cranked up in volume until you have to hit the mute button to protect your brain. There’s no point to that. It is not even dramatic music. It’s just noise for the sake of noise, maybe in a desperate attempt to introduce some excitement into an otherwise flat picture.

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