“Life is wasted on…people”
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Dave Franco, Ben Stiller
Genre: Drama/ Comedy
Type: Independent (America)
Running Time: 107 minutes
Rated R (strong sexuality, language, drug use)
The film presents to us a great character study of people who are troubled, disaffected and trying to adjust to lives none of them planned for (already this is my kind of film).
The story centres around Roger Greenberg (Stiller). He is 40 years old and has just been released from a mental institution. He’s gone to live in his brother’s house in California for a few weeks to do “nothing” with his life for a while. Greenberg is a ‘professional’ carpenter, but was meant to be a rockstar. He has some difficulty (and that’s putting it lightly) dealing with his life as it is, and battling himself at the same time. It made me, as both a viewer and someone who has felt that way in my own life, feel entirely empathetic. Consequently, I laughed with him and felt awkward with him and felt angry with him in every moment. This movie was almost like some kind of visual therapy and a slap in the face about what happens when life gives you lemons.
I’ve read some reviews where people complained about this movie lacking a ‘plot’ and ‘closure’. I’m not complaining about these things at all because, quite frankly, that is truly how life is. There’s no real plot until you’re dead. Then, and only then, is there finally a beginning, middle and end. Greenberg gives us an honest picture of how life does not always turn out the way you hoped it would, and how you can lose yourself because of that. You lose yourself and become a miserable, out-of-touch kind of person. But you have to find your way back, piece by piece and friend by friend, until “you finally embrace the life” you never even wanted in the first place.
Gerwig plays Florence Mar, Greenberg’s brother’s assistant. The story actually starts with her. She is slightly awkward and somewhat unassertive. But she is open and kind-hearted, which in the end is what I think Greenberg likes about her. She is quirky as hell, that’s for sure. But even though her life isn’t what she’d hoped for either, she handles it differently in comparison to Greenberg. With more grace, but not necessarily a happy attitude. All you need to know is that she has her own problems. Her relationship with Greenberg is kind of unorthodox and often emotionally abusive. There’s a beginning to their relationship, but it isn’t very clear. It just kind of happens. Unexpected. No build up. Then there isn’t really an end. It’s great. It’s honest, most importantly.
Ifans (who I really like, by the way!) plays Ivan. Ivan’s life is nowhere near what he was hoping for. But he copes with it with a very charismatic, unassuming awareness that you can’t help but admire.
The Long and Short: This film is characteristic of Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale). Typical of dysfunctional people trying to operate in an unbelievably functional world. So, keep in mind it isn’t for everybody. If you like films about dysfunctional people and don’t mind how uncomfortable they can sometimes make you feel, I think you will really like this movie. It’s also funny at times, but in a cynical, witty, underhanded kind of way.
My Recommendation: If you liked Girl, Interrupted, The Other Sister, How to Be, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Wrestler, The Royal Tenenbaums or Sideways, you will probably also really like Greenberg. I recommend you watch this alone on a particularly cynical, oh-the-world-is-ridiculous kind of day by yourself, or with a friend who has a similar outlook. ENJOY!
Favourite Scene: The party at the pool.