MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +1

Content: -4

Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh. Comedy/drama. Written & directed by Noah Baumbach.

FILM SYNOPSIS: In Greenberg, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) brings us the story of two souls adrift in Los Angeles, trying to forge a connection.

Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig), an aspiring singer, is struggling to find her place in the world.  She works as a personal assistant to the Greenberg family, beginning and ending each day tending to other people's needs.  In sharp contrast to the Greenbergs' bustling life in their elegant Hollywood Hills home, Florence lives alone in a tiny studio apartment and sings at open-mike nights.

When Phillip Greenberg (Chris Messina) takes his wife and children on an extended trip abroad, Florence is suddenly left more to her own devices.  She makes the occasional visit to their home to check up on the family's dog Mahler, and look in on Phillip's brother Roger (Ben Stiller), who has come to L.A. to housesit.

Single and fortyish, Greenberg, who has just been released from a mental hospital, is intelligent, witty, sharp-tongued, and, like Florence, something of a lost soul; he is at a crossroads in his life.  He has been working as a carpenter in New York after an early career as a musician in L.A. petered out.  Greenberg claims to be "doing nothing" and his most tangible projects include drafting letters of complaint and building a doghouse for Mahler.  Roger tries to reconnect with friend and former bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans) and old flame Beth (Jennifer Jason Leigh), but they've moved on with their lives while Greenberg has been stuck treading water.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Basically, we all have the same needs and desires. We all want to be warm, to be fed, to be loved and respected. Often, when we Christians view nonreligious people searching for those ends, we can learn much. We might be seeing ourselves doing the same wrong things, making it a cautionary tale. But when it comes to Ben Stiller movies, whatever we are going to learn, it’s going to be bathed in crudity. Here, we get at least 40 uses of the f-word alone, as well as several crude terms concerning bodily parts and functions. And sexual matters take on all the romance of two dogs copulating.

He’s a talented man, gifted with timing, but he sees little need for separation of private and public behavior. Writer/director Noah Baumbach treats sensitive subject matter here such as drug use, sex on a first date, and abortion, with a callow casualness. Please read the content section and see if his filmed parable outweighs the reasons for its MPAA rating.

DVD Alternatives: The African Queen. Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn find romance as a mismatched pair while attempting to sabotage a Nazi warship. The new DVD Commemorative box set has lots of bonus features.

Woman of the Year. Superb Hepburn/Tracy pairing has Katherine as a political commentator attempting to maintain a career and a marriage with sportswriter Spencer. Witty dialogue and charismatic first-time teaming of its stars. Yeah, both these suggested DVDs are old, but if you’ve never seen them, well, they’ll be new to you.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Focus Features

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Some crude references to body parts and urinating audio gags.

Obscene Language: Around 70 obscenities, mostly the f-word.

Profanity: Several variation of the expression, “Oh my God” and four misuses of Jesus’ name.

Violence: A woman has an abortion; this is done matter-of-factly, no agonizing choice, just an overnight stay at the clinic before going on with life, well, her life.

Sex: I’ll try not to be overly graphic, but it was shocking: there are several suggestive sexual dialogues and situations. The couple split a beer in her apartment and he suddenly kisses her, they fall back on her bed and he lifts up her shirt, exposing her breasts, then he lifts up her skirt and performs oral sex on her. In another scene, it looks like they really are having sex. Forgive me for the imagery, but I wanted to point out just how far the filmmakers have gone to shock us.

Nudity: A couple of scenes feature nudity.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Lots of drinking; the lead is caught in the midst of a party with 20-year-olds and finds himself getting drunk, then doing a line of coke, taking a pill of some sort and smoking pot; there are no consequences for this behavior, which sends a wrong message; in reality, he was lucky he didn’t overdose.

Other: The lead is impossible to like; though he has mental problems, he’s like an unredeemable Adrian Monk.

Running Time: 107 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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