Defining what Greenberg is can be quite difficult. It is a romantic comedy without the romance and comedy. The film does so by removing the typical cheesy gimmicks as it presents itself in a more real life way. There is humor in everyday situations, as this film shows, that are not meant to be funny but to someone watching, it is.
Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig) is a personal assistant to a Los Angeles family. She is an adorable hard worker who recently got out of a long relationship. Her boss’s brother Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) is a 40 year old carpenter from New York who is house-sitting for them while they go on vacation for six weeks.
Roger’s character is somewhat of a mess. He just got released from a mental institution. Although it is never explained why he was there, he is very pessimistic, may have a touch of OCD and has a short temper. Also he does not drive and is a terrible swimmer. He is not exactly a crowd pleaser of any sorts.
Out of the blue it seems, Roger calls up Florence asking her if she wants to grab a drink. The plan is quickly abandoned and then awkwardly tries hitting it off with her. They admit that it is probably a bad idea to try getting together considering she is working for his brother. This makes sense, although that does not seem to stop them from trying to make it work throughout the entire film.
Roger and Florence’s interactions so early on are odd and awkward but mostly unrealistic. As viewers we miss the flirting stage completely and enter the make-a-move stage with barely a hello. Moving too fast, that was their problem but it also goes beyond just their characters. The film moves too quickly as a whole. There was a lack of clarity in the sub-plots that damages the main plot. His friends seem to come into the story then leave without any real significance.
The acting from both Greta Gerwig and Ben Stiller is top notch. It is a performance which you would come to expect from Stiller. He plays the neurotic character on a serious level while throwing in some comedy without trying spot on. Having said that, I feel that nomination for Best Male Lead at the 2011 Independent Spirit Award was deserved but I have a hard time seeing him win it. Same goes for Gerwig. I honestly with there was more Mark Duplass in the film. He has become one of my favorite actors as of late so it was a shame to see him in this for only a few scenes.
I would say that Ben Stiller pulled an Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love with his non-traditional role as the unlikeable, non-slapstick funny, jerk, which may come as a surprise to some, but he has done this role before. Just not in a long time. In fact, most loyal fans know that this is not even his first indie film. Still, it is always a pleasure to see type-casted actor break the mold and be multi-dimensional.
Best Cinematography is another nomination it is up for but also I feel that should not win. It’s too bad that the Independent Spirit Awards do not have a Best Original Score or any soundtrack related category. If they did, I feel like Greenberg would have a decent shot at getting it. The soundtrack was done by James Murphy, the man behind the wonderful band LCD Soundsystem.
Greenberg is basically a character study about Roger Greenberg. It is safe to say that Greenberg had too many ideas going on and overall had little focus and little was accomplished. It is for this reason I do not think most audiences will get into this film. However, it is worth noting that Greenberg is not a total flop. If you manage to stick it out, you will be rewarded with solid acting performances and an original soundtrack and perhaps even a few laughs.