Thursday, July 1, 2010
Greenberg - Ben Stiller's best so far
Title - Greenberg
Written by - Jennifer Jason Leigh, Noah Baumbach
Directed by - Noah Baumbach
Limited Release on March 26, 2010.
There's something about Noah Baumbach. The way he manages to take an ordinary, but very real character and turn it into a fairy tale, well a fairy tale for borderline cynical people so to speak, makes you wonder if he has some degree in psychology. Sticking to the same genre of movies that made him create classics like 'The Squid and The Whale' and 'Margot at the Wedding', he gives us a new and mature Ben Stiller as the 41 year old Roger Greenberg who's sort of a cross between Woody Allen and Tony Shalhoub's Monk. And believe it when I say, this is by far one of Stiller's best works, and will probably remain so for a long time. Quite unlike any of his earlier roles, Stiller's Greenberg makes the audience cheer for him deep inside, although everyone agrees that he's way more than a bit of a jerk. Seriously, anyone expecting Zoolander-ish moments here, stay out.
Stiller obviously is the star of the movie, but not by a long margin. With a few extra scenes, this movie could easily have been called Florence, that being the character of the beautifully talented Greta Gerwig. I wouldn't call her the love interest in the movie, as that would group it with any other romantic comedy, which it is not. The way she portrays the awkwardness that forms the basis of their so-called relationship, makes you wonder if she's even acting. To be honest, prior to watching this movie, when I had heard that Rhys Ifans was in it, I was secretly hoping that he'd do something other than being larger than life which we have already seen from him in British classics like 'Notting Hill', where he played Hugh Grant's amazing flatmate, and 'The Boat That Rocked' where he's the sex-god slash Radio Jockey Gavin Cavannah. Needless to say, his underplayed portrayal of Ivan as Roger's best friend was one of the best things about the movie. A Welsh accented computer guy who's going through a tough time due to a trial separation - all of this and a little underacting by an amazing actor is all it takes to create magic.
A few things that stand out in this movie, which might obviously give it very little box office success, are that the lead guy is a jerk, and nothing actually "happens" in the movie. There is no plot as such. But the efforts put by Baumbach and the actors in studying the characters in such detail, might act as a clear pond to the audience where they can see their own images in or identify with either one of the people in the movie. The way Greenberg treats the people he cares about like yesterday's newspaper, and the fact that his self-loving persona justifies that kind of behavior, made me look at my own life and think about random moments in the past. It's not about loving the hero, but understanding him. Greenberg is no hero, or at least he's not like those that pop up in their one dimensional forms and bore you within the first ten minutes of a normal romantic comedy. He's unique, he's creative, he's an escapist to the core and he's full of himself. Such a wonderfully crafted work of art can be a real thorn in the bum. And he does not get it. Ever.
Another point I'm thankful of is the release date. A March movie never expects any academy awards. Hence all the brilliant acting in the movie can be enjoyed completely without having to measure each minute under the barometer of Oscar pressure. And that's how I like my movies.
Dialogue from the movie:
Ivan Schrank- Youth is wasted on the young.
Roger Greenberg - I'd go a step further. Life is wasted on people.
4.3 out of 5.
watch the Trailer here.