Greenberg is a movie I knew nothing about going into this viewing and I honestly didn't know what to expect. Where I had completely missed this film before it has so many elements that intrigued me, it is a Noah Baumbach film starring so many actors I love (Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, etc...) and all around seemed like it had all the elements needed to be something truly special. It is these elements that I think cause this movie to feel like almost an illusion at times, it feels like such a deep and meaningful indie film but when you really reflect on it I find that it lacks something that causes it to feel forgettable and shallow.
First, I do want to say that the acting in this film is easily its best feature. I think Ben Stiller is such an underrated actor when it comes to serious heavy roles like his performance as Roger Greenberg in this film. He is so genuine in a way that feels so unique. Of course, Greta Gerwig is also incredible, just like her in the role as a director she is so subtle and precise. It feels like her inhabiting her character comes so naturally that you never feel the effort behind her performances which I mean in the most positive of ways. The chemistry between these two is also really special, the characters feel extremely different yet when they come together they are able to come together in a very unique way. I would like to think that Noah Baumbach knew this would happen but it requires the perfect actors and easily could have missed the mark entirely.
It's because of these two that this film is able to feel so genuine and sweet. Because these performances have such depth and skill behind them with a script that compliments that attitude this film ends up feeling really special as you watch it. With that being said though especially on reflection you can't help but feel a little disappointed by what it is trying to say. This is a movie that struggles to find a strong narrative as it goes back and forth between telling a niche story about a man and trying to be relatable to the general audience. This is not to say that it completely fails at either of these sides as individually they are perfectly fine, but its the back and forth that really holds it back. I also found the characters to suffer in this way, without a strong narrative it is often hard to understand the characters in this film and how we should feel about them. I understand if this wanted to have characters have faults and not fully be "good" or "bad" but it does nothing with that narrative if that is what they were going for.
Even with this though the film does act as a good example for the talent of Noah Baumbach as a director. Despite having issues with creating a narrative with the script he excels at moving through this world and creating the various tones and environments that come from that. This is especially impressive considering we spend so much time in the point of view of Roger Greenberg who sees the world in a very uncomfortable and unnatural way, We easily could have got lost trying to follow his point of view but Baumbach did a great job at taking this point of view and translating it to the audience without ruining it entirely. I just wish it was stronger with finding a clear and impactful meaning and message as that could have propelled this film to be one of the best films of the decade.