Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Messina
Roger Greenberg: Dear Starbucks…In your attempt to manufacture culture out of fast food coffee, you’ve been surprisingly successful…for the most part. The part that isn’t covered by “the most part” sucks.
After getting out of a mental institution, Roger Greenberg (Stiller) goes to California to house sit for his brother while he’s out of the country. Roger meets and starts up an odd relationship with his brother’s younger assistant, Florence (Gerwig), while also dealing with resurfacing feelings for an old flame, Beth (Leigh).
In every comedic actor’s life, there comes a time when they must decide to take on a more dramatic role that still has a bit of dark humor to it. Bill Murray would be a prime example of this. Now add Ben Stiller to that list. Actually, he’s probably done some semi-dramatic stuff before, but this just has that late career Murray feel to it.
The problem is, Stiller’s just not quite as likable as Murray. His anger and hostility make me wonder why any of the other characters put up with him for very long, especially Florence. She’s a little odd herself (I don’t think Gerwig could play a totally normal character – and I wouldn’t want her to), but she doesn’t deserve the abuse she’s dealt by Greenberg. Though, I guess that’s sort of the point. She sees past that to the person he is underneath. Unfortunately, it was hard for me as a viewer to see the nicer person underneath, so the romance didn’t make much sense to me.
As for Gerwig, I’ve seen her in a few things now, and I’ve enjoyed her subtle loopiness every time. I kept wishing the movie was more focused on her, like it was for the first 5-10 minutes, but then I guess it would have had to have been called Marr…since that’s her character’s last name.
I liked Rhys Ifans’ performance as well. I haven’t seen him in a whole lot of stuff, but he’s always brought something interesting to the table in the movies I have seen him in. This is no exception. It’s a more normal guy character than I think he’s known for, but he pulls it off very well.
There’s some interesting themes involved here, about stuff from your past not allowing you to move on with your life, among other things, but overall, it’s the mean spirited nature of the movie, along with a wandering storyline that brings it down a bit. It feels like there’s a more enjoyable and interesting movie lurking just below the surface or just off screen somewhere. What was on screen wasn’t terrible, but it has mostly vanished from my mind in the days following my viewing of it. When I can’t quite remember how a movie ended within a week of watching it, that’s not a very good sign.
Apparently dog houses take a very long time to build.
10 – 2 for an unlikable lead character – 1.1 for too many failed comedy attempts – 1 for a disorganized story/script = 5.9