Published Mar 25, 2010Noah Baumbach, the Oscar-nominated writer and director of The Squid and the Whale, has a knack for creating characters that are troubled and difficult to be around. His fascination with giving a voice to those no one wants to hear shows his immense sympathy as a writer and director, but it also means that his characters aren't easy to endure for two hours straight. In his latest film, Greenberg, he gives us another gem of a man: complicated, broken and the kind you would desperately avoid if you could.
Ben Stiller is this man, one Roger Greenberg. Fresh from his time in a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown, Greenberg has left the comforts of New York City to do nothing for a while at his brother's place in Los Angeles. While in the city, he meets up with buddies and ex-girlfriends from his rock star youth days, but not because he wants to. He does so because it is a lot easier than forming any new relationships in his life. Greenberg is still that naïve, failed rocker; he hasn't progressed past his glory days and he is quickly realizing that they weren't so glorious to begin with.
Stiller doesn't have to try very hard to be unlikable, but he still does the depth of Greenberg's sorrow justice all the same ― successfully capturing a character that is so narcissistic and oblivious is not an easy feat. The more successful you are though, the more you run the risk of alienating everyone watching. You want to like Greenberg; you can tell the people around him want to like him; but until he actually considers liking himself, there isn't a lot to like about him.
Fortunately for him, at least Baumbach still has his back, and fortunately for us, Baumbach still has ours too. (Alliance)