Words: Alicia McBride
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh
"Tender, charming, insightful and very funny"
The mere mention or sighting of Noah Baumbach’s name produces a nervous excitement in me that even the shortcomings of his second feature film, 'Margot At The Wedding', have done nothing to dispel. This man is a god to me. He has written two of Wes Anderson’s screenplays (including the fantastic 'Fantastic Mr Fox’) and his debut film was the criminally underrated 'The Squid And The Whale', which I love. To say I was excited about the release of 'Greenberg' would be an understatement and it did not disappoint.
The film follows several weeks in the life of Roger Greenberg (Stiller), who has recently been released from hospital after a nervous breakdown and is trying to slot back into normal life. To make matters more difficult he has to do this while house-sitting for his rich and successful brother in LA, where he is forced to take responsibility for past mistakes and learn how the world really sees him. His only respite in this is Florence (Gerwig), a beautiful 25 year old who sees past his abrasive exterior and falls for the vulnerable man inside. The love story between the two is temperamental, unlikely and incredibly sweet in places without ever being saccharine. It unfolds beautifully throughout the film yet isn’t really the central focus.
The film is a comment on maturity and the difficult process of realising that your youth is over and this might just be it for the rest of your life. The message of the film is authenticated by the smart casting of Ben Stiller and especially Rhys Ifans, whose character embraces a sedate family life after a failed career as a rockstar. Given his usual typecasting, this suits Ifans perfectly and allows him to showcase a real talent that’s usually overshadowed by the posturing and swagger. It's also refreshing to see Stiller ditch the goofball and display some of the serious acting ability seen in 'The Royal Tenenbaums'.
Tender, charming, insightful and very funny this film could well be the underground hit of the summer.
'Greenberg' was released this week in UK cinemas.