Saturday, May 01, 2010

"Greenberg" (2007) - Movie Review

Noah Baumbach should have a radar for passive jerks. He can sense them of various kinds, sizes and shapes because in “Greenberg” he provides one more kind of this lost and uppity person. He resembles a little bit of Bernard Berkman from “The Squid and the Whale” and a tiny layer of Margot from “Margot at the Wedding” but he also has a taste for comic from the writing works of Baumbach in “Fantastic Mr. Fox”. It does not have to be said more that the writing is impeccable. This is “Greenberg”.

Baumbach’s film will be in my best films of the year is about a mean man but an ability to be the nicest guy. He is self righteous but he is ready to put that down and lend a helping hand in odd times. It is the film wherein romance happens in ways you would not expect but makes you feel that it might happen to us and we would very well flip out like these two. That would be Florence (Greta Gerwig) and she is 25 coming out of a long relationship. Ben Stiller’s Roger Greenberg and Florence go on dating without dating or at least Roger goes through it in superb denial.

Greenberg is a New Yorker coming to Los Angeles to house sit his brother’s home while his brother and his family are on vacation. This is a long last home he has not visited for a while. He is also out of a nervous breakdown. He is rough on edges and a little bit inside. Florence and Greenberg meet at an important point in their lives. Florence is wondering how to move on after a break up in a long term relationship while Greenberg is scared to get into one at the age of 40.

He has taken a vow of doing nothing. Though he writes personal letters to editorials sighing his concerns over several corporates and its culture. He admirably succeeds in the nothing part until he begins to deal with his emotions. He has a loyal and trusting friend Ivan (Rhys Ifans) whom he has not seen for several years. In their early days, Greenberg and Ivan with his buddies were an upcoming rock band ready to sign a record deal. Greenberg chose to decline it as it went against his principles. It will be the right time to bring back the uppity self righteous person for his principles.

While other band members made well for themselves, Ivan is going through a separation from a wife Greenberg does not like and is a computer personnel. Things have taken a different route for these two and this is the time to deal it. Baumbach uses Ben Stiller in a non-Ben Stiller way. Stiller while is a talented artist doing the same thing in different movies (especially in his “Tropic Thunder”), invents himself out of those stereotyping in “Greenberg”. He fits the odd characteristics Baumbach has over his main characters.

Florence finds Roger interesting. May be because she admires the honesty in him of not putting up with the system. Even if it is in the destructive way or may be she knows the deeply buried sporadic good and nice guy in him. Greta Gerwig not alone is convincing as the attractive but not completely well groomed 25 year old, rather makes sure that the oddity in her attraction towards Greenberg is smooth and unquestionable.

Visiting the city he grew up and living at his brother’s huge house which is a constant reminder of his own failure, the film has humour so home to Baumbach. There is a house party sequence wherein Roger gets high on several drugs and becomes hyperactive and mainly modestly honest. It is not used as a funny bone moment or a lethargic attempt to settle for an easy humour. It gets the set up for the perfect ending which leaves the audience with a smile to take home.

Noah Baumbach as Wes Anderson not alone creates original characters but repeats it with several layers and a different personality and importantly very real. We are the combination of multiple traits and most of the times the films decides a set list labelled on its characters. The completeness helps but the vacillation of the real human mind is Baumbach’s special territory. Here we laugh at/along with Roger and despise his calculated jackass behaviour but we are with him through this tenure truthfully and hope the best for him.

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