Noah Baumbach

Focus Features

Ben Stiller, Chris Messina, Greta Gerwig, Susan Traylor, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh

GREENBERG: USA 2010, 35mm, color, English, R, 107 min


SHOWTIMES THRU 6/10: 9:45p [ ENDS 6/10 ]

From Academy Award-nominated screenwriter/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) comes GREENBERG, the funny, touching and poignant story of two souls adrift in Los Angeles, trying to forge a connection. Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), single, fortyish, neurotic and at a crossroads in his life, finds himself house-sitting for six weeks for his more successful/married-with-children brother. In search of a place to restart his life, Greenberg tries to reconnect with old friends including his former bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans), and old flame Beth (Jennifer Jason Leigh), but they’ve moved on with their lives while Greenberg has been stuck treading water. He soon finds himself spending more and more time with his brother's personal assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig), and despite his best attempts not to be drawn in, Greenberg and Florence develop a charmingly eccentric and unexpectedly significant connection, and Greenberg realizes he may at last have found a reason to be happy. Walking the fragile line between humor and heartbreak, and revealing an extraordinarily nuanced performance from Stiller in a fresh departure from his usual broad comedic roles, GREENBERG is "extremely entertaining — a real romance, however tortured it may be — melancholic, witty and ultimately quite touching." -

“Hurt people hurt people.” This nugget of therapy talk is passed from one character to another in Noah Baumbach’s GREENBERG, offered as an explanation, an excuse and a sort-of apology. While those four words don’t quite sum up the whole of the human condition, they might stand as a concise summary of Mr. Baumbach’s recent movies. The battling pair of married (and then divorced) writers in THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, the warring sisters in MARGOT AT THE WEDDING — they and their loved ones walk through life nursing psychic wounds and brandishing metaphorical knives.

Roger Greenberg — a former musician who works as a carpenter and whose vocation is writing eloquent letters of complaint about apparently minor inconveniences — is both heavily scarred and heavily armed. Played by Ben Stiller as a wiry, gray-haired ball of raw nerves and well-oiled defense mechanisms, Roger returns to Los Angeles after 15 years in New York and a short stay in a mental hospital after a breakdown. He roosts in the large hillside house of his brother (Chris Messina), who has gone with his wife and children to Vietnam for a long vacation.

“I’m trying to do nothing right now,” Roger explains to everyone who doesn’t ask. Whether he succeeds is an open question. He looks up some old friends, worries about the neighbors and his brother’s dog, and pursues an awkward stop-and-start romance with his brother’s personal assistant, Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig). Roger, at 40, seems uncomfortably stuck in his own receding youth, but Florence, who hangs out in art galleries with her friends and sometimes sings at a half-empty hipster bar, really is 25.

Although Roger Greenberg is a world-class narcissist, GREENBERG is not all about him. It is the funniest and saddest movie Mr. Baumbach has made so far, and also the riskiest. Mr. Stiller, suppressing his well-honed sketch comedian’s urge to wink at the audience, turns Roger into a walking challenge to the Hollywood axiom that a movie’s protagonist must be likable. But Mr. Baumbach, relishing his antihero’s obstinate difficulty — which is less an inability to connect with other people than a stubborn refusal, on hazy grounds of principle, to try — treats Roger with compassion, even tenderness. nytimes