Ben Stiller's Angry, Neurotic Turn in Greenberg

Noah Baumbach's new film finds Stiller in a vulnerable, caustic role

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It's the Ben Stiller you don't normally see. Not the goofy everyman, the ultra-cocky competitor, or the narcissistic caricature. In Greenberg, debuting this weekend, Stiller plays Roger: a neurotic, self-absorbed, caustic 40-something muddling through life. "I'm trying to do nothing for a while," he says. Critics think well of Stiller's performance, though many profess dislike for the "middle-aged loner" character he portrays. Reviews after the trailer:

  • Grating, but Expertly Executed, writes Tom Charity at CNN: "It's hard to believe this hunched misanthrope grew up in sunny California -- he can barely doggy-paddle and always dresses for rain -- but Stiller knows him inside out. He shows us someone trapped in his own disappointment, flailing and failing."
  • A Cynical Yet Meaningful Character, writes Steven Rea at The Philadelphia Inquirer: "He stares off into the middle distance, or sits at a table writing letters of complaint to Starbucks, to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to American Airlines. These are major accomplishments in his day...if you have an appetite for intelligent, sardonic storytelling - for a glimpse into the lives of people you come to believe exist beyond the parameters of a screen fiction - then Greenberg, with Stiller's sad and self-mocking portrait at its core, is well worth getting to know."
  • A Vulnerable Jerk, writes John Griffin at the Montreal Gazette: "Roger, for all his neuroses and navel-gazing and professed desire to 'do nothing,' is actually as vulnerable as only complete jerks can be. He may profess to say 'life is wasted on people' as a variation on 'life is wasted on the young.' He can observe of L.A., 'all the men dress like children, and the children dress like superheroes.' He'll bitch 'there's so much crap out there.'"
  • I Can't Stand This Kind of Person, writes Kurt Loder at MTV: "People like this are insufferable in real life and, without any promise of leavening likability, very difficult to care about as fictional constructs...Emotional growth isn't something of which Roger appears to be capable. His problems are clearly mental -- they're not antisocial habits that can be outgrown -- and even on heavy medication, he's still a mess."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.