One of the running gags/motifs throughout “Greenberg” is the eponymous protagonist’s pissy rejection of an attitude that he insists is quintessentially L.A.—the “me me me” mentality—oblivious to the fact that no other character in the movie embodies that same self-absorption better than him. With that said, pardon me while I shill for myself: the DC column comes a day early this week and it’s about—you guessed it—“Greenberg.”
In today’s paper you’ll also find my colleague Mark Riechers’ review of the film, which I disagree with for a bunch of reasons, as should be obvious from my gushy ode.
I’m particularly stumped by Mark’s assertion that Roger is an “an irredeemable asshole.” Sure, Greenberg is a prickly prick for 98% of the movie—but when does he do anything that’s truly “irredeemable”? (I used the same adjective to describe Jeff Daniels’ infinitely more despicable character from “The Squid and the Whale.”) His only crime is his borderline solipsism, which we gradually come to see isn’t solipsism at all, but rather a symptom of something much more psychologically and sociologically complicated. Is the film’s final stretch not an explicit indication that a certain corner has been turned, that Raskolnikov is wrapping up his sentence in Siberia while Sonya is putting the vodka on ice for his imminent return?
Mark also seems to have missed much of what makes Florence such a remarkable character. I guess I just don’t see how anybody with a sense of humor or a quantum of patience could find Gerwig’s performance “obnoxious.” Mark writes:
The end performance is so natural and yet whiny, so authentic and yet pretentious it strikes a singularity point that fuses the best and worst of mumblecore performances into a single character.
Strange… I’d hardly characterize Florence as a whiner; her stunned reactions to Greenberg’s verbal abuse imply a personality at once alluringly enigmatic and painfully familiar. If anything, Greenberg is the film’s resident whiner—but unlike a Florence, he possesses the intellectual equipment to kvetch in a way that effectively evokes a great tradition of cinematic shmendriks.
I strongly encourage y’all to catch “Greenberg” before its run at Sundance ends.