Cute low-key character study of a mildly neurotic anti-social as he reintegrates himself into his former life in L.A. Ben Stiller is the titular Greenberg, who meets Greta Gerwig’s 23 year-old oddball through his more successful, well-adjusted brother, and begins a tenuous relationship that is not easily defined. The film’s first act revolves more around Gerwig’s character, so we understand through and through why she would sympathize, let alone get along with someone as narcissistic and uncomfortable as Greenberg; she needs someone to take care of, and she can withstand his emotional ambiguity and random tirades, which she probably wouldn’t expect anyone else to do. As Greenberg, Stiller is simultaneously grating and engaging, as he is when he’s at his best, and one can thoroughly enjoy watching him without ever, for a moment, wanting to encounter him in real life. Gerwig and Jennifer Jason Leigh are good as the women who are able to deal with Greenberg’s nonsense, and Rhys Ifans does terrific, uncharacteristically subtle work as his recovering-addict best friend. The backstory behind Greenberg and Ifans’ character is well conceived and explored, and is among the more interesting throughlines in the film. That being said, the “love story” is surprisingly fresh, if a little too timid, in the end, and Greenberg’s character arc is significant without being overbearingly exaggerated.
Recommended for fans of Noah Baumbach and his style of slow-to-mid tempo comedies, or Ben Stiller in an usually realistic role for him.