Greenberg

With Katherine Bigelow’s landmark win, the women of Hollywood need to form a union. First order of business: ban romantic dramedies where loser men are redeemed by the love of a patient, passive, personality-less woman. Add Noah Baumbach’s latest to the chopping block. Ben Stiller stars as Roger Greenberg, a spiteful, selfish narcissist who has—by choice—allowed himself to drop out of the mature world (and convinced himself slackerdom is a noble calling). Most Greenbergs would starve to death. This one is lucky enough to have a rich brother (Chris Messina), and said brother is lucky enough to have a month-long excuse to be out of the country when Stiller needs to use his mansion as a halfway home. Even luckier for the miserable mental ward alumnus is that the mansion comes with a personal assistant named Florence (Greta Gerwig) who thrives on walking the dog and picking up ice cream sandwiches. And why not? True to this chauvinistic genre, Gerwig is a vacuum who lives to serve the house, the man and the mechanics of Baumbach’s script. She’s thoughtlessly used by the film, which has given her a dream—singing (though she’s dull)—and a recent ex-boyfriend whose fingerprint never registers. With that as the extent of her character, Gerwig isn’t off to a great start in her first major debut, especially as she’s imported all the tics of her mumblecore background: low talking, affectless intonation, awkward movements, distracted line readings. These are meant to make the film feel “real,” a nonsense foisted upon the audience, and a curse for the few genuinely good mumblecore films and actors trying to graduate out of Film School 101. (See Humpday, and the Sundance fave The Freebie). What’s equally a crock is the long-standing defense of movies like this, Sideways and Garden State. To their champions, stars and creators (all men), these fantasies that there’s a babe for every whiny misanthrope really just expose the male ego. We’re meant to pity these gents, they claim. Baloney. If that were true, these anti-heroes wouldn’t always wind up with the girl. (Note: not win the girl; that would take energy.) But, inexorably, they bag a beauty with no real effort to be a better person. Why bother, when these scripts treat ladies like dogs, and like dogs, they’ll stay waiting in their winery for the guy to come back and pet their head? Afterward, as the boys in the audience gush about the film’s brilliance, the women are left sullenly nodding along silently worrying, “Is that the best we can do?”

Click here for Greenberg in the IE Weekly

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