Review: Greenberg DVD

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Noah Baumbach | CAST: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Messina, Merrit Wever
RELEASE DATE: 7/13/2010 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $39.98
BONUSES: three featurettes; Blu-ray adds BD Live
SPECS: R | 108 min. | Comedy | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound/ DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

“Greenberg” is the name of one of the least likable leading characters in American movies in recent years. That said, Greenberg is also the title of what will likely be one of the best American films of the year.

As played by Ben Stiller, Roger Greenberg is a real piece of work, a neurotic 40-ish carpenter who has decided to go back to his birthplace of Los Angeles to housesit for his vacationing brother. When he’s not writing lengthy letters to corporations that anger him, he’s commiserating about life with his old pals (Rhys Ifans, Mark Duplass), revisiting ex-girlfriend Jennifer Jason Leigh (who co-wrote the story with director hubby Noah Baumbach), caring for his brother’s sick dog or getting involved with his sibling’s younger asssistant (Greta Gerwig) in a roller coaster-like relationship.

Like his highly praised The Squid and the Whale and less successful Margot at the Wedding, writer/director Baumbach deftly mixes uncomfortably comic moments with astute character observation to deliver a film that plays like an Eric Rohmer version of an Albert Brooks movie. Stiller, bereft of the farcical, physical shtick required by his Parents and Museum tentpoles, makes for an off-handedly funny screw-up who thinks he knows what’s best for him, but really is clueless and socially inept. And Gerwig, best known for her stints in such “mumblecore” efforts as Hannah Takes the Stairs, brings a refreshing, free-spirited nature to her part that is both open and sexy.

Greenberg is definitely not for all — it brought in a tepid $4.3 million at the box office in limited release this spring — but those who like their comedies on the cranky side will get a sting out of its edginess and a kick out of Stiller playing a self-obsessed slacker whom they may want to smack before the film is over.

The DVD adds three quick featurettes.


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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.