At The Theater #13: Greenberg

Dear Noah Baumbach,

In your attempt to create a movie that could be described as Garden State for old people, you succeeded in some respects. Unfortunately, you decided to mimic possibly the worst parts of Garden State in Greenberg.

You got a lot of the surface elements right. Ben Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, a single guy on a bunch of psych meds who isn’t certain of his place in the world, similar to Zach Braff’s character Andrew Largeman in Garden State. Also like Garden State, he meets a girl who changes the way he looks at and interacts with the world. You included an indie-music heavy soundtrack. You even had Roger stand in front of garish wallpaper in one of the early scenes, but without the matching shirt.
Garden State: like Greenberg for young people…and much better too.

What you failed to capture was any of the charm that made fans of Garden State fall in love with that movie. Before, I could never understand why some of my friends hated Garden State so much. But watching your movie, I now have more of an understanding of their opinion. If the charm of Garden State was lost on a viewer, I think his experience would resemble mine while watching Greenberg.

I find it hard to believe that you could be responsible for one of the best movies I have seen this year, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and one of the worst, Greenberg. The Fantastic Mr. Fox is full of humor and has a great plot, two things lacking in this movie. Some might point out that The Fantastic Mr. Fox was an adaptation, but to I would point out to them that I have enjoyed your original work as well. I thought The Squid and the Whale was a good movie, even though some of my peers labeled it as pretentious crap. I’d point out the great comedic bits, like anything involving Ivan the tennis instructor or eldest son Walt’s lifting of a Pink Floyd song as his own in a school talent contest. But where’s the humor in Greenberg?
If the point of Greenberg was to show just how unglamorous Los Angeles could be, then congratulations, mission accomplished. Also Greenberg succeeded in making me more afraid of being 40 and single and Couples Retreat did of making me afraid of 40 and married. And if it was any way your goal to make a movie that I would like less than Remember Me this year, good try. You weren’t successful on that last one, but I can appreciate attempt.

The blame for me watching and not enjoying your movie does not only fall on your shoulders. I would like to take to task both the Cobble Hill Cinema and the Angelika Film Center for subjecting me to so many multiple viewings of the Greenberg trailer that it seemed almost preordained that I see this movie. Why were they cramming this movie down their audience’s throats?


Tuesday Night Movies

PS: Garden State had a better soundtrack