Greenberg: What I Thought

Ben Stiller is back, in sleeper hit ‘Greenberg’. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t heard of it since yesterday. It came up during a Skype conversation with one of my cousins from LA, and he wholeheartedly recommended it. You know, because they get everything about four months before we do in the UK. So, reluctantly, I put my money down then and there, and journeyed to my local cinema this afternoon, for a very enjoyable couple of hours.

Roger Greenberg is a carpenter, former would-be-rockstar, and general oddball, played by Ben Stiller. He comes to stay in LA and to watch over his brother’s house after many years of residing in New York, while his brother and family are on holiday. While there, he meets up with his old band members, says hello to ex-acquaintances, and meets Florence, his brother’s ‘assistant’, whose job seems to mainly consist of grocery shopping and caring for the family dog, Mahler. That’s essentially all you need to know about the film’s narrative.

It’s a very quaint film, with the majority of the duration spent exploring Roger’s past, through his return to LA, and his exposure to various elements (people and behaviours) which were once commonplace to him. That’s very much the draw of it. Greenberg is an intriguing character, who seems to be on some sort of medication, as well as possessing a penchant for applying lip balm. You could say that as a character, he’s fascinating, drawing you in further to try and unravel this erratic chap. To what extent is he ill, if at all? His mood swings throughout the film only exacerbate this interest. You very slowly uncover facts about his past, and the film does a great job of slowly revealing Roger’s character. By the end of it, you’ll have quite a good understanding of who Roger is, while not knowing much about him at all. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s a wonderfully strange feeling.

I haven’t really paid much attention to Florence, yet, which is a shame, because she’s definitely on equal footing with Stiller, in terms of major parts. Florence, played by Greta Gerwig, is a bit of an enigma herself, and her seemingly irresponsible behaviour, and her resulting seemingly irresponsible interactions with Roger lead to some hard-hitting conclusions that really make you bond with the pair.

This film is filled with uncertainty, which again, sounds rather odd. It’s a very different Ben Stiller film, where he shows that he’s matured as an actor. After getting over the fact that he isn’t going to snap back into his Zoolander role, and shout “ooga booga booga” at the screen, you really get drawn in, and the film really takes off, while the uncertainty kicks in. Roger Greenberg is a very confused man, who is committed to ‘doing nothing’, which some might describe as him battling with a midlife crisis. All the while, you’re left uncertain, thanks in no small part to his erratic behaviour, what he’s going to do next, and where the film will take you.

What’s the rating on the Epic ‘Would You Watch It Again?’ scale? I’d definitely watch it again. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I’d buy it on DVD when it comes out. Stick with this film. It will mesmerise you, and take you to wonderful places.

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