“Noah Baumbach seems intent on laying his own distinctive claim to a territory already overcrowded with developers, that of adults swamped in disabling neuroses, bad behavior and self-absorption. You can add Jewish angst as well in the case of ‘Greenberg,'” writes The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt in his review of “The Squid and the Whale” director’s latest film, which recently premiered in competition at the Berlinale. “While winning no points for originality, Baumbach and his co-conspirator in the script, Jennifer Jason Leigh–whom he directed in his previous examination of psychological trauma, ‘Margot at the Wedding’–have created an all-too-convincing portrait of a 40-year-old man in emotional freefall.”
Tim Robey for the Telegraph: “Whether audiences go for ‘Greenberg,’ Noah Baumbach’s spikily morose comedy, will depend on their Ben Stiller irritability threshold: he plays an angry, unemployed 40-year-old with mental health issues, housesitting for his brother (Chris Messina), dealing with a sick dog, and semi-dating the help (Greta Gerwig, somehow luminous and dopey at the same time). As a subject, middle-aged depression needs comic lift-off in the film-making, not just Stiller’s mercilessly touchy timing, to give it sting.”
“Stiller has a tough task making Greenberg likeable,” notes Mike Goodrigde in his review for Screen Daily. “The actor’s sunken cheeks and exaggerated facial features make Roger appear even more neurotic and defensive. Whether writing complaint letters or criticising his friends, he is ostensibly obnoxious but more vulnerable qualities emerge through his friendship with Florence. It’s a brave performance but one which might be misunderstood, especially since Stiller is a mainstream movie star.”
“Ben Stiller is very good at being Roger Greenberg. Problem is, Roger Greenberg (unlike, I’d imagine, Ben Stiller) is no fun to be around,” concludes David Hudson in his review for The Auteurs.
Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek, however, calls the film “the one picture I’ve seen thus far that has truly surprised me” at this year’s Berlinale. “‘Greenberg’ is self-conscious and knowing, and, as we’d expect from Baumbach, sharp-witted,” continues Zacharek. “But its self-involvement is capacious enough to include us. ‘Greenberg’ has a soul, a heart, and most importantly a sense of humor–not just about the world, but about itself.”
More from Variety’s Todd McCarthy. Meanwhile, indieWIRE’s Eugene Hernandez reports from Berlin on the film’s press conference. The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Baumbach about the film. Watch the trailer for “Greenberg” on YouTube.