Greenberg (2010)

★ ★ 1/2

It seems that every famous, though unaccomplished actor eventually tries to prove he can act. Ben Stiller became the latest to do so, playing the title role in Greenberg. Greenberg is a hodgepodge of modern neuroses; the stereotypical product of the 80s culture. He's self involved, compulsive, nearly oblivious to his surroundings. Does Stiller pull this role off? I'd say so. There weren't any flashes of brilliance, nor obvious blunders. He was mundane; almost completely uninteresting. Given that this was the point of the role, I'd consider it a success.

Jennifer Jason Leigh's first attempt at screenwriting was respectable. She'd obviously seen Sideways a few times, and taken copious notes. Greenberg seems like a mildly anesthetized version of Giomatti's Sideways character, and the story line is eerily similar. The only obvious difference seems to be that Greenberg was once popular enough to have become a full blown narcissist. It wasn't completely unoriginal. There were some interesting jabs at awkward social conventions, and some amusing, uncomfortable barely-intergenerational-intergenerational-dialogue.

The most surprising part of the movie is Rhys Ifans' performance. Given that his career is based on providing comic relief in dramadies, I was quite surprised to find out that he's capable of being utterly morose. Newcomer Greta Gerwig was adequate as Greenberg's sophomoric love interest. Jennifer Jason Leigh's tiny role as Greenberg's ex-girlfriend was a highlight. I've seen few better advertisements for never, ever associating with an ex.

Noah Baumbach's lugubrious film is bound to turn off less patient viewers. Admittedly, it didn't hold my undivided attention. There wasn't enough depth to justify the amount of navel gazing. I'm happy to see that Ben Stiller and Rhys Ifans can pull off serious roles, but I doubt I'll get around to watching Greenberg again.