Noah Baumbach's favorite terrain is deconstructing life's emotional ups and downs with characters so narcissistic and self-delusional they make everyone on screen and off as uncomfortable as possible. With "Greenberg," the writer-director who came to prominence with 2005's "The Squid and the Whale" has reached new highs or new lows, depending on your point of view.
...The nanny/personal assistant/possible girlfriend Florence, one of "Greenberg's" few rays of light in Greta Gerwig's good hands, puts it best. In trying to explain away yet another injury to her psyche about midway through the film, she says, "Hurt people hurt people."
The same could be said of Baumbach's relationship with his audience, with "Greenberg" his angriest, most conflicted and most painful movie yet. Stiller's Roger is just out of a New York psychiatric treatment center where he's been recovering from a breakdown. There's nothing to suggest he's made much headway.
...Meanwhile, Florence is almost as adrift as Roger, though in more of an innocents-abroad way. As they stumble around romance and a relationship, Gerwig comes the closest to salvaging the film. She makes Florence an open book and an easy read, a night spent singing sad ballads in a mostly empty bar saying all that needs to be said about those lost in the dream factory.
Friday, March 19, 2010