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We like Florence: she's considerate, sweet, pretty, and terrific with kids and dogs. She's twenty-five, personal assistant to an L.A. family that's off on vacation. Her boss's brother comes in from New York City, fresh from a stay at an asylum, to take care of the house. He's Roger, a forty-year-old carpenter, gone from L.A. for fifteen years. He arrives, doesn't drive, and needs Florence's help, especially with the family's dog. He's also connecting with former band-mates - two men and one woman with whom he has a history. He over-analyzes, has a short fuse, and doesn't laugh at himself easily. As he navigates past and present, he's his own saboteur. And what of Florence? is Roger one more responsibility for her or something else? Written by
A poster of the band Prinzhorn Dance School can be seen on the wall where Greenberg hangs the drawing made by Florence' niece. This is a reference to LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, who was responsible for the soundtrack. Murphy is the boss of the DFA record label, who released the 'Prinzhorn Dance School' album. See more »
The clothes worn by Greenberg, Florence and Ivan in some scenes include sweaters and jackets that would normally be too warm for Los Angeles, especially when some other characters are wearing swimming gear. See more »
Noah Baumbach and a (serious) Ben Stiller combine forces on this character piece.
"A shrink said to me once that I have trouble living in the present, so I linger on the past because I felt like I never really lived it in the first place, you know?"
Greenberg is a drama about...Greenberg. Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), to be specific. A 40 year-old New Yorker who returns to Los Angeles to stay at his successful brother's home while he and his family are away on a trip. He's not dealing with his life not going the way he planned as well as most of the other people he knows, and he's perpetually stuck in the past. The music he listens to is old, he talks to people about events that happened 15 years ago that they don't even remember, and he's just generally an unhappy guy. His main activity is writing letters of complaint to various companies.
To say that Roger is flawed is an understatement. He just got out of a mental hospital recently, he's self-centered, and he tends to freak out about insignificant things as a way to protect himself from people and the world. Yet, I still liked him. As does Florence, (Greta Getwig) his brother's personal assistant who isn't exactly a model of happiness and mental health, herself, and Ivan (Rhys Ifans), Roger's long-suffering old friend and band mate, who is having family troubles of his own.
If I had to compare this to another movie, it would be Rachel Getting Married. Not because of any plot similarities, but because of a similar tone and some shared themes. Specifically, being adrift in adult life and how issues and regretted decisions from youth can linger and fester. Also similar to Rachel Getting Married, there's never a breakthrough moment where the flawed characters are suddenly okay, and all the problems disappear. If you expect grand resolutions from your movies, please avoid Greenberg. All we get is a sliver of light at the end that makes us think that something positive may be happening in some of these characters' lives. We're left to imagine and hope that Roger, Florence, and Ivan are on the road to getting (or finding out) what they need from life.
So yeah, I liked it. It's a good "indie" drama, and quite different from Stiller's usual thing. Stiller and Gerwig were both great, the characters were well-written, and I've always been interested in these kinds of stories about adults flailing away blindly in this tricky thing we call life. If you're a fan of movies like Margot at the Wedding, The Squid and the Whale (both movies share Greenberg's director), and Rachel Getting Married, I'd suggest that you give this a try.
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