Saturday, March 20, 2010
Ben Stiller falls in line with all of those 'stupid movie' (not the technical term) comedians who feel the need to show their full range by starring in a super depressing indie film. Adam Sandler, Jim Carey, Will Smith, you know the type. I have never been one for the 'stupid movie' comedies (Katie still scolds me for never having seen Dumb and Dumber, Tommy Boy, Liar Liar, or that one where Ben Stiller plays the male model, what was it called?) but luckily I happen to ADORE super depressing indie films(!!!), as you are well aware. Give me Punch Drunk Love over Billy Madison any day, yes please.
Although, come to think of it, Stiller had little to nothing do with my reasons for seeing Greenberg on opening night at the Angelika. It was his much younger leading lady, Ms. Greta Gerwig, who pulled me in. More accurately, it was a charming little profile done by New York Magazine about Greta in last week's issue.
They do a swell job over there at NY Mag, cutting the fat and forcing our interest. They gave this seemingly unknown (I don't know what the hell Mumblecore is, do you?) young actress full credit while still revealing her awkwardness and naive charm. She comes across as fresh faced, sincere, yet completely dedicated and talented in her craft. Good writing fascinates me.
The line that really hooked me was regarding Gerwig's costume fitting and how she gained seven pounds afterward because she “thought [the character's] thighs needed to rub together.” I read that and thought, I know this girl. She is the type of girl I went to school with at my fancy liberal arts college who wasn't fancy at all. Like NY Mag so deftly articulated, she is a girl who looks like she could knit a scarf. And sure enough, Gerwig NAILED this part.
Florence is a character that hasn't yet been exhausted like so many archetypes for twenty-somethings as of late. I think it's her lack of angst. It's her ability to slouch, and mumble, and over apologize. She's totally okay with her employers forgetting to write her a check before they depart for Vietnam. In fact, she encourages their tardiness by claiming its better for her anyway-- this way she'll spread out her spending. When she sees Roger in the bar after her performance, she doesn't over think her reaction-- she waves excitedly with that soon-to-be-recognized toothy grin. She is the anti-Juno, and thank goodness for that.
Greenberg actually hit a different note than I was expecting. It was much funnier than the previews allowed, and Stiller played the role without that ache of loneliness we have come to expect from films about lost souls. He was very crass and unfailingly arrogant. The romance was wacky as well, though not necessarily for lack of purpose. It played out with a sort of bait-and-switch emotional pull. We were encouraged to want Florence to run away from Roger, but melted a little bit when she did things like give him puppets and we were happy when he learned to care for the dog. This was a very sweet film, in the end. We all exited the the theater smiling-- I love when that happens.
I would also like to note the artist Jill Greenberg, whose photos totally distracted me while googling 'Greenberg' for an image for this post. I saw her show at ClampArt last fall, where they served tootsie roll pops at the reception, as she is rumored to make those children cry by taking away candy. She is also the photog who was in trouble with both The Atlantic and the McCain campaign after shooting the presidential candidate 'in sinister light.' That really had nothing to do with anything-- just a little 'Greenberg' trivia for you all. Happy weekend. :)