This post is actually about the movie Greenberg, which has nothing to do with the wrestler Bill Goldberg (in the literal sense). I thought I remembered the WWF* having a character in mockery of Goldberg named Greenberg, so I thought I could have a picture of him as the header for this post. Turns out that character’s name was Gilberg. I’m starting to forget some of the most obscure wrestlers’ names. If I can forget Gilberg (sort of), who else might slip my mind? Barry Windham? Mortis? Sick Boy? Et tu, La Parka? I’d hoped to be remembering these guys fondly well into my fifties. Might be time for some flash cards.
*I refuse to refer to it as the WWE. Sacrilege.
Last thursday was a great day. The kind that makes you glad to be alive. I woke up to a voicemail from my boy Petro doing this hilarious joke where he pretends to be some sort of robotic call-making machine called C.H.I.P. 1. This is a classic bit from my circle’s history and I hadn’t heard it in years. Major laughs. It really put a spring in my step. Plus the sun was shining and the sky was blue, which is always great for a dog walker. One of my clients even left me a pulled pork sandwich in her fridge. Delicious and free. I’m literally always on the lookout for that combination.
After work I took Stella for a run and played my newly purchased Final Fantasy 13 for an hour or so. It seemed like bad form to stay indoors on such a beatiful night after such a hard winter, so I took the subway down to Wall Street and just started walkin’ around. I eventually made my way north through Tribeca and Soho, thinking I’d see what was playing at the Angelika. It was a productive trip. I busted a quick exploratory hang at a Wind in the Willows themed bar, bought a new dugout at a head shop I’d never seen that had surprisingly good prices, and stopped in at the chess forum to check out the boards and shoot the shit with a fellow nerd. It was awesome. By the time I reached the Angelika I was floating on enough good vibes to make Phenomenon seem like Powder (feel free to insert a more appropriate analogy here).
Sorry if I sound like a 23-year-old girl fresh into my Sex and the City New York life, but it really was a phenomenal day. Most of my days include much less Manhattan strolling and much more sitting next to my dog. The point I’m trying to make is that Greenberg caught me at my absolute most forgiving, so keep that in mind if this review seems overly glowing. When I saw this movie my spirits were very, very high.
Enough with the qualifiers. Greenberg was awesome. I was wary due to the romantic comedy feel, an unjustified grudge I have against Noah Baumbach, and the fact that Ben Stiller hasn’t been funny in quite some time. I forgot those concerns almost immediately. The movie starts with Florence (Greta Gerwig), an average-looking girl in her mid-twenties going through the motions of her unimpressive daily life. The scene only lasts a few minutes, but at its conclusion I found myself already attached to Florence. I liked her, sympathized with her, and wanted things to go well for her. I can’t recall ever having fallen for a character so quickly. The way she talks to herself and courtesy waves while switching lanes in her car was about as endearing as it gets. It didn’t stop there, Gerwig was superb throughout. An impressive combo of dramatic skills and comedic chops. She should get Oscar consideration. Although when it comes to the Oscars my official stance is getting closer and closer to “who gives a fuck?” I’m basically already there.
Florence is the assistant to some sort of rich mover-and-shaker in LA. Kind of like me, except instead of assistant to one rich guy, I’m assistant to a bunch of upper-middle class dogs. Same position, different species. Anyway, this mover-and-shaker is leaving town for a while and his brother, fresh out of a mental hospital, is going to be staying at his house. This brother is Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller).
I’m not much into Stiller these days, but he was excellent as Greenberg, who is essentially a 40-year-old washed up loser. He’s unhappy, self-centered and neurotic. Maybe a little too neurotic, actually. My only real complaint. I know to some extent that’s just how Stiller do, but at times I felt like the character would’ve worked better with less anger and more apathy. The scales should’ve been adjusted just a tad. Greenberg is jobless, he doesn’t drive and he repeatedly says he just wants to “do nothing for a while,” but he also says and does some pretty nasty things. Things that make you hate him a little. I could’ve done without that. But I guess the beauty of the character is that you still pull for him despite the fact that he’s a total asshole.
The movie takes place in LA, where Greenberg grew up. He’s been living in New York for 10 years working as a carpenter, and has lost contact with the people he used to know. He’d been the frontman in a successful band in his twenties, but had turned down a record deal and was never offered another. Basically, he’s a failure. His attempts to re-unite with his former social circle reveal that most of them don’t much care for him anymore. The exception to this is his former band mate Ivan, played masterfully by Rhys Ifans. Ivan is immediately likable. He puts up with a lot from Greenberg, and their awkward attempts to re-kindle a dormant friendship are both funny and a little sad. These guys are not what they once were and they know it.
The story is nothing special. Greeneberg and Florence, both dissatisfied with their lives, meet and fall in love. That’s about it. But the triumvirate of Stiller, Gerwig and Ifans gets it done in a big way. All three were terrific. Ever since I saw the movie I’ve been trying to decide who was the best. I’m still not certain, but I think Greta Gerwig takes the prize. Her scenes in the hospital are straight-up hilarious. I think its her face. She uses it well. I never found myself sexually attracted to her, but I often found myself wishing she was my friend, which is much, much more impressive. I’ll save my dirty, sinful sexual attraction for the Michelle Bombshells of the world.
For some reason I’ve always wanted to dislike Noah Baumbach. I think it stems from misguided anger at about how The Life Aquatic turned out. At the time, I was really disappointed in Aquatic and I blamed Baumbach for taking Owen Wilson’s place as Wes Anderson’s writing partner. A pretty uninformed opinion, really. I should’ve adjusted my Baumbach views as Life Aquatic grew on me (which it has, big time). Unfortunately brains don’t work like that; or mine doesn’t anyway. Its time to put the Baumbach disrespect to rest. He’s obviously got mad skills. Greenberg proved that to me. Now I guess its time to check out The Squid And The Whale.