New Yorker Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), directionless and still single at 40-ish, goes to Los Angeles to house sit for his successful married brother (Chris Messina) and tries to reconnect with his former friends, including ex-bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans). But old friends are not always best friends and he finds himself spending time with his brother's PA, Florence (Greta Gerwig), an aspiring singer and equally lost soul.
Review by Louise Keller:
If you saw Noah Baumbach's films Margot at the Wedding and The Squid and the Whale, you will know that Baumbach specialises in stories about acute observations and human frailties. Greenberg is such a film, with a beautifully concise and sensitive screenplay (co-written with Jennifer Jason Leigh) and insightful direction, inviting us to become involved in the lives of two complex, confused individuals. Baumbach has an eye for detail and anyone who is interested in what makes people tick will warm to this warmly funny, awkward and poignant film about life, love, expectations and acceptance.
It is in that context that we meet Ben Stiller's emotionally frail Roger, a failed musician-turned carpenter, recently released from a New York mental hospital and trying to cope with a life that is different to one he had planned. A fish out of water in Los Angeles, Roger lives in the past, dreams of what might have been and puts pen to paper about his never-ending complaints about life's small things as he writes to newspapers and establishments. He writes to Starbucks to complain about their coffee; to American Airlines to complain about the controls on the seats and to Hollywood Pet Taxis about their hard floors. This is Stiller in a paranoid, nerdy persona, not the comedic Stiller, and he delivers most convincingly. He is funny but heartbreaking.
Greta Gerwig's Florence is an obliging, sensitive 25 year old who looks after all the whims and needs of the Greenberg family in their elegant home in the Hollywood Hills. Picking up the dry cleaning and the groceries, running errands, taking the family Alsatian Mahler for walks and being at the beck and call of her employer and his family is par for the course. Her own private life, living in a messy studio apartment, singing with a guitarist at open-mike nights and trying to work out when and how to say no to sex to casual boyfriends since breaking up with her boyfriend is a puzzle she has not as yet worked out. Gerwig has an appealing and natural ease in front of the camera, displaying awkwardness and vulnerability. We like her.
This is a film in which all the important action is internal. The characters are beautifully drawn and it is their interactions that allow us to understand them and feel for them. The relationship between Roger and Florence is punctuated by clumsiness with an inability to grow gracefully or with elegance. Mahler the dog is the catalyst that brings them together. The other relationships are equally gauche: between Roger and his newly separated, former band member (Rhys Ifans) and his former girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for whom he still carries a torch. We learn Roger's mindset when he revises the expression 'youth is wasted on the young' to 'life is wasted on people'.
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CAST: Ben Stiller, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rhys Ifans, Dave Franco, Juno Temple, Chris Messina, Brie Larson, Mark Duplass, Great Gerwig
PRODUCER: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Rudin
DIRECTOR: Noah Baumbach
SCRIPT: Noah Baumbach
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Harris Savides
EDITOR: Tim Streeto
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ford Wheeler
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 22, 2010