Hate to Love
Misanthropic boy meets philanthropic girl.
Apr 26, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 30 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
Greenberg is not in any way a misanthropic film; rather, it is an unsentimental critical portrait of a certain type of misanthrope. As such, it is close to flawless. But the movie might, like Greenberg himself, be a little too full of its own integrity. In subjecting Florence to a painful degree of embarrassment and humiliation at Greenberg’s hands, writer-director Baumbach is, in effect, subjecting the audience to them, too. People are used to witnessing embarrassment and humiliation in a Ben Stiller movie, but that’s because Stiller’s specialty is playing Job for comedic purposes and suffering untold agonies for our amusement.
In Greenberg, Noah Baumbach turns the tables by making Stiller the cause of another’s pain: a young woman who deserves better but doesn’t seem to know she does. Baumbach’s reversal, and Stiller’s genuinely fearless performance, makes for a far more original and valuable movie than most of his other fare. Still, it’s no wonder people hate Greenberg so much.
John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, is The Weekly Standard’s movie critic.