Now Showing: Greenberg (2010)

18 Aug

Ben Stiller is one the most bankable Hollywood actors around, just think NIGHT(s) AT THE MUSEUM and the FOCKER franchise, but it’s a less jocular turn here in his latest big screen outing GREENBERG.

Returning to Los Angeles after fifteen years in New York, including a recent spell in a mental hospital, Roger Greenberg (Stiller) house sits his for his vacationing brother and family and writes long-winded complaint letters to the likes of American Airlines and Starbucks. Ivan (a resigned Rhys Ifans), his one real friend from the old days before Greenberg wrecked their band’s chances of a record contract, does his best to help him reconnect with the old crowd, but past animosities resurface, and a date with his former girlfriend, and now the mother of two small kids, Beth (Jennifer Jason Leigh) goes awry.

Greenberg begins an off-on friendship with aspiring singer Florence (Greta Gerwig) who works for his brother’s family as their nanny and general assistant, and although he behaves increasingly erratically it becomes apparent that their quirky relationship could work. After a tense time when the family’s beloved dog Mahler might die, and a crazy drug-fuelled party at the house, Greenberg leaves a rambling message on Florence’s phone.

And that’s the story, which is directed by Noah Baumbach (MARGOT AT THE WEDDING) from a script by his wife Jennifer Jason Leigh. This film stretches Stiller’s talents but succeeds. His character is initially so unsympathetic it would be easy not to care what happens to him, but it’s a measure of Stiller’s acting skills that we end up really hoping things work out for the best. I must note though that when I saw the film on its opening day at the Kino I was the only audience member!

MIKE CHILDS

Greenberg is still showing at Nova Cinemas

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