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Greenberg

If misery loves company then Greenberg’s central character seems to live by that mantra.  Thriving amongst its dark shadows, his peculiar nature is a perfect fit for director’s Noah Baumbach’s latest.  Known for delivering left-of-centre offerings, Baumbach’s ability to draw comedy from someone’s constant self-pity is a good skill.  That he does with a character living in a maelstrom of chaos adds well amongst his previous exploration of personal dysfunction.
 

When his brother asks him to house-sit, Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) quickly accepts.  Recovering from a recent nervous breakdown, he thinks this may be a chance to re-connect with life.  Moving in, he meets his brother’s assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig) who sees the troubled soul within.  Looking for answers herself she begins an odd romance with Roger.  Stumbling into this is an old friend Ivan (Rhys Ifans) who still holds a grudge.  Looking after a house, a sick dog and sorting his messy existence is an endurance test Roger tries to overcome with mixed results.
 

Greenberg shows the value of having some personal goals.  Roger and Florence don’t have any and are lost souls aimlessly wandering through life without much purpose.  It’s not until they meet that they begin to formulate some future plans and face up to their foibles and past mistakes.  Ivan plays a key role as he forces Roger to examine his self-destructive nature and achieve the potential he knows he has.
 

These are successfully interwoven in the archly amusing script with Stiller’s performance standing out. That such a selfish and grumpy character can garner any sympathy is down to his characterisation with Stiller replacing his usual manic persona with a more emotionally subtle rendition.  He’s in fine company with the characters feeling more real with the comedy arising from the situations rather than being forced.  This mix of humour and pathos slips easily within the script’s semi-comic tone.
 

Greenberg may be an acquired taste but its examination in beginning and re-igniting relationships is well handled.  While life may get us down sometimes there’s a world out there to explore which is something this quirky offering tells in its own individual way.
 

Rating out of 10:  7
 

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