Greenberg–Movie Review

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2 Stars
Greenberg is an interesting but frustrating movie. It is well-acted and smartly-written, but ultimately you’re spending a lot of time with an unpleasant and self-destructive person.

Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) is a middle-aged loser, an unemployed carpenter who has recently spent time in a mental institution after some sort of breakdown. Now he has come to Los Angeles to house-sit for his much more successful brother. While there he reconnects with some old friends, all of whom he has treated badly, and begins an affair with a much younger woman (Greta Gerwig) who seems to have a compulsive need to take care of someone less competent than herself.

Roger’s forte is writing ascerbic letters to corporations that have offended him in some way, usually about some trivial matter. He is easily offended. Whenever he starts getting close to someone he always finds something to get mad about and reacts in a hurtful and insulting manner.

From the previews I had some idea going in that he was like this but I was hoping for something a little more entertaining. Perhaps I was hoping for something like As Good as It Gets, in which Jack Nicholson plays a somewhat similar character. Nicholson’s character is nasty but funny, and he ends up taking decisive action to turn his life around.

Ben Stiller is a reasonably talented actor, but he doesn’t have anything like Jack Nicholson’s presence and charisma, and the character he plays never seems particularly funny, just sad. This is probably more realistic, but it is far less entertaining.