Tonight I saw Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller and Greta Garwig.
"Of course I know what it's like to live a life I didn't plan on.
Really, it could be the defining sentence of Generation X, and it's used well in this film to help us sympathize with Roger Greenberg (Stiller), who is in town from New York to babysit the L.A. mansion and dog of his brother's family, while they enjoy a vacation in Vietnam.
Roger is a 40-something who proudly proclaims to be content living an empty life of nothing. He tries to fill his days with whiskey, ice cream novelties and meaningless sex, but like everything, that doesn't seem to work for him.
He meets Florence (Garwig), his brother's pleasant personal assistant who resembles a cross between Kate Winslet and Elisabeth Shue. He immediately registers an attraction to her, but she's young, she works for his brother and she seems to understand him, so he most certainly doesn't want to begin a relationship with her. He makes this clear to her.
As the film progresses, we begin to form our love/hate relationship with Roger. Learning more about his past, we realize his issues are more severe than simple OCD—heck, he's even done time in a mental institution—but he's so nasty to everyone he comes in contact with, it's hard for us to like or excuse him.
Florence, however, is vulnerable and underutilized and so genuine in her fondness of Roger, we want to scoop her up and hide her from the inevitable pain she's about to experience.
In one respect, Roger is not unlike many men that choose to chase or settle with the woman that is "easy" for them to be with, instead of the girl that really "gets" them and loves them for their faults as much as in spite of them. Of course, it's the girl who understands Roger that receives the heartfelt mix CD.
In another respect, you don't want Florence to love Roger for who he is, because a lot of self-improvement needs to be achieved before he'll be worthy of her affections.
The writing here is excellent. The acting here is superb, but Greenberg isn't an easy pill to swallow. It's not fun to spend two hours with a man who spends most of his days writing hate letters to various corporations, then treats a sweet girl abusively. But, it's an incredibly interesting way to get to know characters.
"You like me more than you think you do." Florence says this to Roger at one of their most fragile moments.
I think she was right about him, and right about what I think of this film.