For most people, Ben Stiller will forever be the Oops My Spooge Is In Your Hair! guy. But don’t forget, he also had a sketch comedy show in the early 90s. And he worked at a zany museum (TWICE!). Oh, and I think one time he played a Hollywood junkie who did Hollywood junkie stuff like screw things up and disappoint people.
This time around, as Greenberg, he’s a mopey, disaffected Generation X-er in the throes of a midlife crisis. He’s also an alumnus of a rock band from the 90s called Crotch Riot or some shit. But, predictably, he fudged the deal with a big wig record label back in the day. You know, because it would’ve compromised his artistic integrity. As a result, his former bandmates harbor a bit of a grudge against him. And why not? They could’ve been backstage at the Whisky A Go Go getting overzealous handjobs from college freshmen.
Yes indeed, Greenberg is the kind of guy who exists in a perma-sealed world of self-concern. (It probably smells like whiskey farts and cat litter in there.) If you invited him to your daughter’s ballet recital, he’d stay home and forlornly stare out the window instead. Later he’d give you a long winded explanation about why he couldn’t come, and then he’d ask you to drive him to the store to buy balm, because he doesn’t drive, and because balm is the kind of weird shit that sad Gen X-ers without cars need to buy at 11 goddamn p.m. And then at the store he’d buy a green visor instead of balm and none of it would make any sense AND YOUR HEAD WOULD FUCKING EXPLODE. (Note: Not an actual scene in the movie.)
Greenberg’s behavior would come off as grating if not for the fact that most of us are self-important, emotionally damaged assholes at times, too. And if you’re one of the saintly few who has never been a blip on the asshole/failure radar, then fuck you. Go for a power walk while the rest of us watch Dr. Phil and try to find an un-collapsed vein to shoot sorrow juice into.
This movie is at its best when exploring just how awkward courtship can be. In one scene, Greenberg is picked up by his brother’s assistant, Florence. The plan is to go to a bar for a drink. But on the way Florence realizes that she forgot her ID back at her studio apartment. Cut to her kitchenette, where she and Greenberg share a beer. In a fumble-fucked instant, his lips are pressed to hers. He struggles with her unflattering bra, they lurch toward the bed, and he plunges his face between her thighs like some dude who jumped the gun at a pie eating contest (pun totally intended, fuckface). It all happens too fast, too gracelessly. “Do you hear a train?” Florence asks. Then she says, “Sorry, I get weird sometimes.” She sits upright, fixes her skirt, and weirdness lingers.
If that scene comes across as contrived to you, then you my friend have been spared a lifetime of libido-induced awkwardness and should be thankful. But that also means you’re probably an upstanding, well adjusted person, and in that case you probably won’t like this movie.
I give it 3 sour bastards out of 4.