Ben Stiller plays a 40yr old guy who, after being released from a psychiatric hospital, moves from New York to Los Angeles to watch his brother's house while his brother is in Vietnam on a work/vacation for 6 weeks. And he gets the hots for his brother's 25yr old assistant. And she's kind of an odd bird, likeable, kindof flighty, but apparently a very effective assistant.
Okay - the acting was fine and the actor's characters were believable, technical filming aspects and all were fine. Dialog was okay. It isn't Ben Stiller the douche-in-dodgeball sort of comedy acting, nor is it the Ben Stiller is Mr Furious sort of acting. It's the Ben Stiller playing it straight sort of acting. Which, honestly, I think he does really well at, especially in this filck he does really well at selling this character. And the gal that plays Florence, Greta Gerwig, makes you like her from the get-go, odd as the character is. She sells it convincingly.
She's sort of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) of the film, except she's an Amazon more than a Pixie, and she's not especially Manic. So she's the MPDG-lite, or just a G.
But the movie's Plot... um...
Here's the thing. I really don't know how to take some of these fly-on-the-wall Drama things. If you ever saw "Lost in Translation" it sortof lands in that pile of drama types of movies. I watch it, then go 'huh - what do I do withthat ?' I think I kinda liked it, but, then, did I? Well, yeah, but no, but yeah, but...
The story plops you into right before Greenberg shows up, he shows up, stuff happens, then the movie is over. Although there was a bit of stuff. It's all 'fly on the wall' for the viewer. And if it doesn't resonate with ya, then what?
My viewing partner (The Wife) said it was a chick flick - but I didn't think it was a chick flick. I mean, how? Was it romantic for him to just come on to the assistant right after meeting her, then grouse at her, then come on to her again, then grouse again? He can be nice, then he's an asshole. I realize the dude has issues, and he stumbles through them right through to the end of the movie with varying degrees of success and/or failure, and he tries to change, but ... uh ...
I don't see it as a romantic drama chick flick thingy -- at least not the "Woman's Relationship/Wedding/Life Falls Apart but the Annoying Guy is the Surprising Hunka Love Interest so we all Sing for Shoes in Spring" or whatever passes for chick flick romantic comedy with splash of 'my stepmom slept with my ex' drama movies these days. I think it's just a fly on the wall peek into a slice of some schlep's life.
If you decide to see the film out of curiosity, well that's your choice. I can't think of anybody I know that I'd recommend seeing this film to. It isn't a bad movie, it's just a movie that has some good actors doing a good job believably acting out the script. The story? Probably resonates different with different people.
PS: I just read Leonard Maltin's review -- he conveyed what I was trying to convey in much less space. That's why he gets paid the big bucks. I feel less concerned about feeling so unsettled after watching the movie - apparently he felt the same way. I love his closing line : "But if you wonder where the story is headed, or find the protagonist not worth bothering about, don't say I didn't warn you."
(original post 30 Nov 2010)
Addendum 18 Apr 2011:
I just rewatched the film to see if maybe I just misunderstood it my first time through. Nope. I'm still left in the "I liked it in some ways but..." place at the end of the movie. Greenberg is a guy in his 40s, decides he wants to do nothing.
I completely understand that.
I'm in my 40s; I decided I want to do nothing. I've been doing nothing since 2008. I like doing nothing. It wasn't easy at first, but I'm getting better at it. But I still don't relate to this guy. And seeing the movie twice didn't grant me any new insights into the film.