I went into Greenberg not thinking I would enjoy it that much. I had seen mixed reviews and based on my mood yesterday, I wasn't sure I would be able to handle a dramedy that was a slow character study with an unlikable lead. I'm glad I stuck with my plan to watch it though because Greenberg is a very enjoyable movie that I am surprised has not gotten more attention. It's not a perfect movie by any means but it is well acted and contains very interesting characters despite some of my annoyances with their arcs. While I feel the movie may be a bit disposable in that I doubt I will ever have a need to revisit it, it's still a good movie that I recommend to people looking for a smaller and more intimate movie experience.
Ben Stiller, the star of Greenberg, does a great job as the lead. He plays Roger Greenberg, a 40 year old who is sort of wandering through life without a plan after having just spent a short stint at a mental hospital. He comes back to California from New York City as a way to wind down and is staying at his brother's house who is out of town due to a family vacation. He quickly begins a pseudo-relationship with his brother's assistant (played perfectly by Greta Gerwig) who was given instructions to help out Stiller's character with anything he needs.
Roger is a very blunt and idiosyncratic character who is prone to random outbursts. It's a character who has never seemed to fully mature and continues to live in the past. This can be a very hard character to pull off but I felt like for the most part Stiller nails it. This could have easily been a very hammy performance but he reigned it in just enough to make the character fairly sympathetic. I've heard complaints that Greenberg (the movie) is not enjoyable because of Greenberg (the character) but I strongly disagree with that. I was intrigued by Roger and the cause of his actions. While the character may have some odd quirks only seen in indie films (He writes numerous letters of complaints to businesses throughout the movie.) it was still subdued enough to make you believe someone like this could really exist and not alienate everyone around him (Something Roger is constantly on the verge of the entire movie.).
Stiller's performance is also helped by the fact that the characters he has to interact with are equally well acted. As I mentioned before, Greta Gerwig was a perfect choice as Florence, the assistant that Greenberg falls for. She's a young actress who I had only previously seen as the friend in House of the Devil who I remember being impressing by despite the small amount of time she was on screen. She really blew me away in this movie though. If Greenberg is going through a mid-life crisis, then Florence is having what would constitute as a quarter-life crisis. She is 25 and has yet to find a real purpose in life. She is the assistant to Greenberg's brother but other than that we don't know much about her life other than that she is an aspiring singer. The movie largely depends on the chemistry of these two semi-lost souls and fortunately Stiller and Gerwig were able to pull it off in a manner that seemed effortless.
Greenberg is a movie that mostly succeeds due to the performances and not the story. I wonder what this movie would have been without two actors of this caliber. Say what you will about Ben Stiller but between this and the relatively recent Tropic Thunder, I still think he has a lot of talent that is typically wasted in broad comedies and kids movies. Anyone who disagrees should really check out Greenberg. It's a shame this movie didn't get a large audience because I fear it means Stiller will take less chances like this again in the future. If you can put aside some of the films non-subtle quirks, you'll find that Greenberg is a solid movie and one that you won't regret giving a chance.