Film Review: Greenberg

There is a movie currently showing in the cinema called While We’re Young, and if I’m honest I vaguely fancy seeing it. I quite like the look of the trailer, although I think it’s got a slight air of throw-away forgetfulness about it – today’s news tomorrow’s chip wrapper and all that – I’ve also heard it described as a cross between Greenberg and Frances Ha, and considering Francis Ha got stuck in my head to the point that I actually named it one of my top movies of 2014 I did wonder if I was potentially miss judging it.

It’s been a few years wince I watched Greenberg, and I didn’t really remember much about it. Truthfully, I didn’t remember anything before hand. But the fusion with Frances Ha (not actually that unsurprising considering that all 3 movies have been directed by Noah Baumbach) suggested that it would make sense to reacquaint myself with it; one in vague preparation and two, just general curiosity.

Ben Stiller & Greta Gerwig - Greenberg

Because of the amount of time that has passed since my first viewing, I had essentially forgotten most things about Greenberg. Which sadly, sums up a lot about the film. I had vague recollections that it starred Ben Stiller but after that, things weren’t just hazy, they were simply blank. For instance, I’d forgotten the rest of the cast, and the basic idea of the plot.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it meant that I was able to watch the film through fresh eyes, without prejudice or idea, and just accept what was on offer. Sadly though, Greenberg for me just doesn’t excite. While Ben Stiller plays the titular lead, he character just feels fragmatic and fake. I never believe in him as a character and the swings in his personality just belie any life experience I have. I truly do not know or have ever met anybody who acts as vividly different as he shown to do so and therefore, I never trust him, I just don’t believe that he could exist. He also looks really old to me, scarily weather and beaten before his time and I found it distracting off putting.

Supporting most of the weight of the film is Greta Gerwig, who wormed her way into my head in Frances Ha but in this just feels strangely submissive. I like her as an actress, she manages to convince in her role visually, but once again I just don’t buy into her character. I just don’t accept that people like her exist. There are too many times in the film when she acts, accepts or just simple agrees to anything through almost autonomic response. Appearing to live in an a haze, removed from physical life. I just feel that as a character is dead behind the eyes, you get not real warmth from her, just resignation and it meant I never truly felt on her side or empathic towards her.

Rhys Ifans - Kevin & Perry Go Large

Worse still is Rhys Ifans. I grew up with Harry Enfield’s Kevin And Perry, I remember their Go Large film and the character Ifans plays. And alongside his layabout hung over performance in Notting Hill, he clearly defined himself in my mind, even his general dishevelled look reaffirming this. So to be asked to accept him as the only really serious character we’re properly introduced to, to use him as almost the voice of saintly reasons, is just so at odds with what I can accept that it feels too wrong to play to along with it. It feels awkward and weird. That and describing him as English.

Even having seen the film before, I had forgotten the plot and even watching it nothing really came flooding back which was strange, usually rewatching something long forgotten unlocks the box in my mind and the story comes flooding back. But this time, as things progressed I would remember scenes, props, and events but they were mere snippets, gone before taking hold, and I think that says a lot about the film. It just not that memorable. Mainly because what does happen isn’t overly ground breaking or important, and when it does try for a big, pivotal act things just fall flat because usually they are just a little bit too far-fetched to be believable. It’s just an entire movie at odds with itself. I never felt it really knew what it wanted to clearly be or how to actually get there.

Unlocking Memories - Greenberg

Thankfully though, it’s not the longest movie, only 108 minutes, and it doesn’t feel slow or stodgy. It always feels like it’s moving forward, but because you never get drawn in, it never grabs you, you do notice the passage of time and it does feel it’s length a little bit more consciously than you would normally expect; but not enough to really use it as a complaint against it.

I only watched Greenberg because of it’s partnering with Frances Ha in a comparative review of a film I am thinking of seeing. Otherwise, I would have continued to pass it over and having watched it again (and put it back on the shelf,) I think it’ll now sit there for a long time, passed over and ignored. Purely because it just isn’t interesting enough to bother watching.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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