COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 47min
STARRING: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Chris Messina
Two drifters...: from left, Stiller and Gerwig
Yes, it stars Ben Stiller but, no, Greenberg isn’t a goof-off. Stiller is edgy and uncomfortable as Roger Greenberg, a 41-year-old failed muso and, more recently, New York City carpenter, now recovering from a nervous breakdown. He fits nowhere completely so it seems apt that Greenberg is only in Los Angeles for a few weeks, bunking down at the impressive home of his wealthy brother, Phillip (Messina). Florence Marr (Gerwig) is Phillip’s PA. She’s a young 25 and obliging to a fault — the kind of easygoing young woman who is easily put upon. And both she and Roger are drifting and lonely without really acknowledging it.
Film-maker Noah Baumbach, who hit so many nerves with The Squid and the Whale, has drawn lived-in performances from his two leads; ditto from Ifans as Roger’s distanced friend. Baumbach’s LA is equally accessible as a city in which unremarkable people take their shot at getting by. He knows these people through and through, and by the end of their journey so will you. Its prickly patches, flat stretches and surprising points of revelation just may not be the journey you expect.