Home > Cinematically Correct, Movie Reviews, Movies, My Movie Reviews > It Goes Against All I Stand For But “Greenberg” Has Given Cinematically Correct A Case Of “The Garden State Syndrome”

It Goes Against All I Stand For But “Greenberg” Has Given Cinematically Correct A Case Of “The Garden State Syndrome”

It's hard not to love a movie...that feels like you are watching you.

One of my biggest pet peeves is something I call the “Garden State Syndrome”. When that movie came out, every 25-year old thought it was about them. They were at that point of life and it just seemed to click with them. Even though I was right around that age when that movie came out, it didn’t click with me. “Greenberg” clicked with me.

If you have seen any of Noah Baumbach’s other flicks, you would know going into “Greenberg” that you are going to be dealing with some jacked up characters. Baumbach is a personal favorite of mine because he manages to write intensely neurotic and sometimes cruel people with such great endearment that you end up liking them. See, in a very, very sad way…this gives me hope.

Ben Stiller is Roger Greenberg, a failed New York musician visiting his brother (the so underused Chris Messina) in Los Angeles after a stint in a mental institution. You won’t find out why Roger was in the institution, but it really doesn’t matter. From the instant he is on-screen, his social awkwardness is quite apparent. Instead of going outside to ask the strange people what they are doing at his brother’s pool, he instead calls the family’s personal assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig) and asks who they are. This is a seriously stilted guy we’re dealing with here.

Roger eventually connects with his former bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans). Ifans doesn’t have too much trouble playing the clever English aged rocker as his appearance alone screams of it. Roger spends most of his time with Ivan complaining about them not doing anything, but once Ivan drives them to a party and Roger sees all the people, he tells him to forget about it. Swoon…I love this person.

We learn a lot about Greenberg during his time with Ivan, but he really opens up while around Florence. Of course, by opens up I mean that he is actually willing to talk to a stranger. Florence is a mid-20s recent college graduate who, like many people that age, is a bit confused with what to do with her life. She doesn’t have big emotional freak outs or sudden moments of clarity amid chaos. Florence, like most people, is level headed and keeps plowing away despite her troubles. I loved her character almost as much as I love Greenberg, which I can promise you means a lot. I hadn’t heard of Greta Gerwig until this movie but I will definitely keep an eye open for her in the future. She was quite fantastic.

Gerwig is great, but this movie is Baumbach’s and Stiller’s and they both own it. It’s not a big leap to say that this is the best film that Baumbach has made and it is easily the performance of Stiller’s career. Even though he looked very, very gaunt, Stiller keeps a look on his face that made me feel like it was okay for him to treat people so brutally because he didn’t seem to find any fault in it. Greenberg just couldn’t function as a human unless he thought everything was beneath him, but it seemed like that was just the way it needed to be.

So, why do I love the bitter, angry, cruel, neurotic Greenberg? While I am by no means close to needing an insane asylum and this goes against everything I normally stand for while writing this stuff…but I have heard myself say the types of things that Greenberg says. So let me be clear, I’m not doing that “that character is me” bit, I’m only saying that I have been known to say some fairly brutal things to people, either on purpose or without even realizing I said it.

Hold on a sec, did I mention this was a comedy? Trust me, it is. It’s just not going to hit you over the head with a sledgehammer. It’s subtle, quiet, and once you get past the bitterness of it all, it’s really quite sweet. There hasn’t been much to write home about in 2010 so far, but “Greenberg” is easily the best 2010 has to offer so far.

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  1. April 26, 2010 at 10:04 PM

    I didn’t relate to ‘Garden State’ as you suggest as I’m a little older (41) but I did enjoy the flick. I’m no hired gun but I could relate much more to ‘Grosse Pointe Blank.’

    That being said, I’ll be sure to check out ‘Greenberg.’ Thanks for the recommendation.

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