Greenberg : Baumbach
March 31, 2010

Alright, I was on the fence about writing on Noah Baumbach’s new film, Greenberg, but I twisted my own arm.  Not because I didn’t like it (I loved it), but because I don’t want to give anyone expectations prior to viewing.  I went in the theater completely blind to the synopsis, which is what I prefer and suggest you do with directors I love.  The only info I was privy to prior was that Ben Stiller played a part, and this I only knew because my viewing companion was none other than my gay boyfriend, He Who Has Large Crush on Stiller.

Ben Stiller in Noah Baumbach's Greenberg, 2010

Should I warm you up on how I feel about Baumbach’s work?  I think yes.  First, he won me over completely with The Squid and the Whale. It is mostly autobiographical regarding a family during and after divorce, is written extremely well, and includes stellar performances by Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels.  Then there is Baumbach’s first film, Kicking and Screaming, full of witty dialogue on a subject I know all to well – the disorientation one feels after graduating from college.  And let’s not forget Margot at the Wedding, where we are witness to crazy family dynamics.  Noah Baumbach is in a close race with writer/director Nicole Holofcener in winning the title of my favorite character writer.  It’s a serious race as both capitalize on subtleties in their characters that are key not only to the humor in their films, but also to the way their audiences relate to their work.  And now, on to the film…

Though I thought that Greenberg started out a little slow, it fulfilled my Baumbach expectiations thoroughly.  The film masters social awkwardness as Stiller’s character battles the difficulty of his extreme misanthropic disposition while visiting the very social city of Los Angeles.  My companion and I both walked out of the film finding ourselves relating all too well with Stiller’s character, though we are both far from attaining his level of annoyances.  Many times we found ourselves laughing out loud at his extreme distaste for social experiences and social niceties.  However, if I continue to write I fear I will reveal too much, so in an effort not to spoil your personal viewing experience I will say no more about the film.  Just know that Greenberg is yet another one of Bambauch’s successes in his string of darkly humorous films, and I will continue my journey in life as one of many loyal fans.