Greenberg is directed by sometime writing partner of Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach. It is also written by Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Ben Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, taking time out in LA soon after a nervous breakdown and house-sitting for his brother. It’s the first time in a non-straight-up-comedic part that I’ve seen Ben Stiller completely inhabit a role. The character is frustrated and angry but haunted and damaged, and he plays it with remarkable conviction. Although his behaviour is often toxic you still find yourself rooting for him. No mean feat for an actor. Rhys Ifans lends strong support as an old friend, as does the lovely actress, Greta Gerwig with whom Greenberg begins an affair. Also, LA is something of a character in the film. A very normal LA, that is. We see no flashy or glamorous, dangerous or exciting sides of this town. It’s seen as just another place where people live and get on with everyday stuff.
At times it’s an uncomfortable watch. To be completely honest with you dear reader, I did see a few too many similarities between myself and the neurotic hero. (So the squirm factor might just be personal.) And while not laugh-out-loud funny it is has a rapier wit and is very amusing. It also has a lot of heart.
Baumbach is a helluva talent. If you haven’t seen The Squid and the Whale please rent it. With the likes of Woody (75 years old) and Clint (80) still behind the camera, Noah Baumbach is still young in director’s terms and am sure he has a lot more to offer. I look forward to seeing it.