107 minutes| U.S.A.| 2010| Colour| Anamorphic| Dolby Digital Stereo| 35mm

Ben Stiller’s gift for incarnating a squirming awkwardness that’s at once bitterly funny and affectionately human meshes perfectly with writer-director Noah Baumbach’s flair for exasperatingly insightful character portraiture in this LA-set comedy of manners. Stiller is Roger Greenberg, 40-something carpenter and failed musician, who’s been through mental health issues, and is now house-sitting for his wealthy brother. He’s going nowhere, but wears his disengagement from career/marriage/family like a badge of honour. Florence (a remarkably unaffected Greta Gerwig), his sibling’s eager personal assistant, seems floaty and lackadaisical beside Greenberg’s pent-up, know-it-all scorn, yet over several weeks of mooching, misunderstanding and knuckle-gnawingly awkward sexual encounters, Baumbach magically draws these two together.

Like Baumbach’s earlier The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg is about perfectly weighted minutiae rather than broad farcical set pieces, presenting us a wise overview on maturity and compromise, ageing and acceptance, shaped from performances and filmmaking of gold-standard quality. Forget tadgers-in-the-zip and Robert De Niro’s prize cat, this is Stiller’s finest hour. Notes by Trevor Johnson

Special Greenberg screening for our monthly film club (age 16-18) on June 23rd, at 15.00.

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