© Tobis Film GmbH & Co. KG

U.S.A. 2010

Opening 1 Apr 2010

Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Writing credits: Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Principal actors: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Chris Messina, Susan Traylor

Carpenter and former rock musician Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) is forty and presently a house sitter in Los Angeles for his brother Phillip, who went to Viet Nam on business. Unfortunately, Phillip allowed the neighbors to swim in his pool while he was away. Also, his grown daughter thinks nothing of dropping in on her way through town and holding a huge party in the house. However, these irritations are minor compared to Roger’s real problems: he is totally self-absorbed and blind to his own responsibility in his miserable little life. Once in town, he contacts old friends, e.g., Ivan, (played by British actor Rhys Ifans) to little avail. Either they no longer have any common interests or their memories of Roger are unfortunate. They have grown up and moved on, contrary to Roger, who seems to have stood still at age thirteen. One person willing to put up with him is Florence (Greta Gerwig). She has the run of the house since she is a sort of nanny and household help for the brother’s family. She agrees to chauffeur Roger around town, since, as a New Yorker and occasional alcoholic, he has no driver’s license. Florence is younger – only 25 – but also an unhappy loner who tries to please everyone. Sometimes she takes a stand, but mostly she is overly solicitous. So here we have these two outsiders – losers if you may – who, thrown together, attempt to interact on behalf of their own feelings, on behalf of the sick dog, on behalf of sex (as a failed attempt between the two of them and as an abortion due to a prior relationship).

I agree with my colleague Osanna Vaughn who said, “Halfway through the film I realized that this is not a comedy.” It’s not even amusing or sarcastic or full of black humor as director Noah Baumbach would have us believe. It’s just sad, and in the end, we hope that Roger will go back to New York City and make other people’s lives miserable. We wish a new beginning for Florence, which would include stability and a nice, dependable boyfriend. Together, Florence and Roger are an impossible catastrophe – which is okay as long as we don’t have to watch them self-destruct.

Noah Baumbach not only directed but also wrote the script. He has been successful in the past with independent films such as Margot at the Wedding and The Squid and the Whale, which also deal with the woes of interrelationships and families. He has worked with Wes Andersen and written scripts for such good films as The Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The highlight of Greenberg is young actress Greta Gerwig, whom some of you might have seen in the film Baghead which played at the 2009 Filmfest Hamburg in October. Viewers familiar with Hollywood and West Hollywood might recognize some of the sites. For some strange reason Greenberg was in competition at the 2010 Berlinale film festival, but it had no chance of winning. (Becky Tan)

The theaters below show films in their original language; click on the links for showtimes and ticket information.
Interviews with the stars, general film articles, and reports on press conferences and film festivals.
Subscribe to the free KinoCritics monthly email newsletter here.