Posted on Sunday, April 11th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I don’t actually like Ben Stiller very much, just in general. I usually find him creepy and angry and strangely square-headed. Apparently, I’m supposed to find him charming and adorable and hilariously funny, so sometimes I don’t enjoy his movies because their premise rests on the audience assuming that he is charming, adorable, and hilarious.

In Greenberg, I am meant to think he’s creepy and angry (he’s gotten very skinny, so his head isn’t so square, so replace “square-headed” with “jutting-collarboned”). So although I don’t necessarily like him better, at least there is no cognitive dissonance to contend with. I do need to make the point that Ben Stiller playing a dude struggling with mental illness/emotional problems isn’t really any different  from Ben Stiller in, say, Meet The Fockers, and that shit is way less funny if you imagine your hilarious protagonist as needing serious in-patient treatment. But I digress…

This is probably a bit of an L.A. movie, in that everyone is pretty dull and detached, and no one really likes anybody else; they’d all be assholes if they could be bothered to try harder. What the fuck is it with that? Is everybody in L.A. autistic or have some kind of pragmatic language disorder? Or do those sorts of people gather together around filmmakers like fruit flies on bananas, so that’s what makes it onscreen? I’ve been wondering this since L.A. Story. Fictional people in New York all seem to have coherent thoughts and look other people in the eye, even while flipping them off and punching strangers in the face. But I digress again…

The girl in this, Greta Gerwig is undeniably adorable, although so dissociative and dense that I started to think she had some kind of  intellectual disability. Rhys Ifans, scruffy and cuddly as ever, seemed to be the only person who could focus his eyes. The tertiary cast is carefully selected from the best of Showtime’s series.

So anyway, this movie is fairly aimless and awkward, but clearly intentionally so, and watching Greenberg alternately try to succeed and try to fail at personal relationships is oddly compelling, even though you’re not really sure where it’s going. There are vaguely humorous moments, but it’s not meant to be funny-funny.

The ending, however, is unexpectedly light and undramatic yet cathartic.  I felt actually pretty positive about Greenberg and his struggles at the end, like he didn’t waste my time or his. But ultimately, I’d suggest re-watching Garden State instead.

There is an ailing dog in this movie, and just as a PSA I want you to know that nothing bad happens to him (because I personally worried the whole movie long).

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