Greenberg is a transitional film for Noah Baumbach personally and professionally. He meets Greta Gerwig during the production and falls in love and splits and eventually divorces his then wife Jennifer Jason Leigh who also appears in the film. It also marked his last attempt to make a Hollywood film with a big budget for “indie” film and afterwards he made the small budget but insufferable Frances Ha with Gerwig.
The film concerns the character of Roger Greenberg who has gotten out of the hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown. He is staying at his well off brother’s place in L.A. and soon becomes infatuated with Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig) who looks after the house, does the errands, walks the dog etc. Florence is equally neurotic but has the quirkiness you expect from Gerwig. Greenberg is weighing his life out while he attempts to do some work on the house but really just drinks, hang out with his old bandmate played by Rhys Ifans and of course Florence.
Baumbach as the extreme short featurette on the disc says takes a novelistic approach to the film. It’s has the feel of a novel which isn’t the case of his other films which are somewhat more vibrant and cinematic especially his debut Kicking & Screaming and While We’re Young. The novelistic approach to the film probably appealed to Bret Easton Ellis who considers the film as a flat-out masterpiece. The film does have a great sense of melancholy from the opening to the ambiguous climax.
Ben Stiller who always had great comedic timing from the very beginning, with this role he is trying to do the crossover to drama which every comedian wants to pull off. Ironically enough he actually starting doing dramatic work in his first few films like Empire of the Sun. It’s one of the crowing performances of his career and Baumbach was certainly impressed enough to cast him again in While We’re Young.
Gerwig who can getting extremely grating with her hipsterdom is really lovable at his sweet-natured but totally ditzy girl. Rhys Ifans perfectly portrays that friend who has pretty much got his life together but out of friendship still hangs out with old friends. Jennifer Jason Leigh is somewhat wasted as one of Greenberg’s old flames but who knows maybe due to the disintegrating relationship between her and Baumbach her part was shortened.
It’s not perfect the ending is ultimately somewhat unsatisfying and it never kind goes as dark as it could’ve. It also lacks the humour of Baumbach’s best work some chuckles here and there but never quite grafts the bridge between comedy and drama it should’ve. There is however one stand out hilarious scene where Greenberg is doing coke at a house party with young people. However any film which pissed off the Daily Mail film critic and has a score by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy is gonna be a winner even if it’s a reluctant winner.
The Blu-Ray is fairly barebones with 7 minutes of featurettes which are only glorified trailers really.