I am aware that this movie is not the most cheerful and is not for everyone.
Its main character is despicable, to say the least, the rhythm of the movie is quite slow.
That being said, I still like this movie.
The characters are well developed and the relationship between Florence and Greenberg is touching and hopeful, at least in the end.
It is one of these movies which makes me feel like I am watching real life, not some famous glamorous people.
I appreciate the time dedicated to get to know the characters through seemingly unessential dialogues. The audience is inserted into the characters’life rather than watching people say their lines from afar.
I found the movie well directed and written, the actors are great as well as the soundtrack composed by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.
Let’s dig deeper
The film opens with 8 minutes solely dedicated to Florence.
Roger Greenberg after whom the movie is named, appears after.
I noticed because it is unusual to start with a character and stay with it for so long and who is not supposed to be the main one.
This movie could have very well be called “Greenberg and Florence”. But he is so self-centered and takes so much space, the use of his sole name can be justified.
You can see right away that she is a bit of a pushover, she is so willing to all the tasks the Greenbergs give even though they bombard her with tasks and information.
She is not even bothered they don’t pay her in time and then she borrows money from her friend.
She finished college a long time ago and says “no one cares if she gets up in the morning”. Like Roger, she is extremely lonely.
She poses her hand on the person she just hooked up with: you can see she is desperate for affection.
She says twice in traffic: “Are you going to let me in?”. Screenwriters like Noah Baumbach doesn’t write lines randomly: it’s a metaphor for her desire for intimacy and her relationship with Greenberg.
She lacks confidence: let people treat her badly, excuse herself for her taste in music, never stand up for herself, always says “it’s not a problem” when people demand things from her.
She also downplays her gig saying “it is a stupid thing”.
It is n attitude that bothers Roger, making him think she is broken like him and not good for her (he storms off after hearing the striptease story).
What I like about Greenberg, is that he is so multi-dimensional in a way I haven’t seen a lot in movies.
His anxiety is so well depicted that it brings me back to my own (I mean if I tone it down a LOT).
He is obviously a jerk, but as the movie unfolds you discover more about his issues, how pathetic he is in every sense of the way.
In his first scene, he calls Florence to inquire about people in the pool.
Which seems like a normal reaction, and yet with the simple sentence ” there are more than two people” to justify his stress, the director hints at Greenberg intimacy issues
I think the scene where he tries to swim showcase it greatly. The way he undresses to go in the pool shows how unusual he is and as he tries to swim, you see his lack of technique with his almost comical motion.
Hurt people hurt people
The tension rises as he almost drown and suddenly a very saturated sound of a helicopter passing by change the moment to a dramatic one and illustrates his extreme distress and pain.
It is very difficult to make a movie about a character that the audience won’t like. And yet, you can relate to him.
He has reflections that I find true about the world, he seems really smart.
I also think sometimes he is mistreated as people remind him 15 years later that he destroyed their lives by refusing a record deal.
He is also almost harassed by Florence’s friend at her concert: she doesn’t stop asking him questions when he wants to listen to Florence, telling him ” you are so quiet” as if being an introvert was an offense.
That being said, he treats people horribly.
He pushes Florence away and goes back to his old flame who forgot completely about him because it is “safe”.
He doesn’t care about Ivan or his son and wants him to stay separated from his wife because he just wants his old friend back even if it means him to be unhappy.
Because happy people cannot be around him.
He hates when people sing on his birthday. “You’re such a fucking asshole!” he says to Ivan who planned the celebration. He doesn’t like being on the spot and getting attention or celebration. “Sit on my dick asshole!”. You can see anxiety made him panicked because later on Florence laughs about it and he doesn’t remember saying it.
As the movie progresses, he becomes aware of his problems, at least in parts: “I should be able to drive, it is ridiculous” or “people don’t call on my birthday, but then again I don’t call on theirs”.
He self sabotages and hides behind being mean and cruel for self-preservation.
He carries the guilt of shattering the dreams of his bandmates and hides it all by deflecting the fault and his hatred on the whole world.
Florence and Greenberg are like yin and yang: She is kind, caring, warm, easily accomodating, and even manipulable and desperate for intimacy.
He is self-centered, angry, arrogant, enslaved to his anxieties, and wants to keep people away.
At first, he rejects her as a form of self-sabotage or even self-preservation thinking she is the dysfunctional one (“you transfer so much onto me”).
He gets really pissed at the story she tells me about stripping for boys because it shows how she is influential and broken. He leaves when he hears it thinking she is not good for him (“this is the stupidest story I have ever heard”).
She is attracted to him because “he is vulnerable” so there might be an emotional connection with him.
They have music in common: he used to be a songwriter and member of a band, she sings.
You can see when he sees her sing that he really “sees” her for the first time.
Music plays a big part in this movie. He even tries to seduce her with his music knowledge right away, makes her a mixtape.
About the last third of the movie, you see him trying harder: he starts building the dog house, he sends his letter of complaints…There is hope for them.
it is a movie about dysfunctional people finding each other and even if the process is painful, learn to get closer and build something together. it is their true shot at happiness as the hopeful ending suggests. Florence sees through Greenberg’s problems and he finally realizes that he can’t flee his own life forever (he fled L.A to NYC 15 years ago then NYC for LA and tried to flee last minute to Australia).
The pleasant thing about this movie is to have two characters that feel real and not fabricated. And that’s for once, the characters are highly dysfunctional but it ends up on a hopeful note.
I think I like this movie because it focuses on the characters and their psychology which I find very interesting.
It is also very difficult to do, so I am not surprised to see that Noah Baumbach’s career has flourished for the past 10 years.
I think the actors’ performances are particularly striking but I know it is a movie that would be challenging to enjoy for some people that is why I thought it was an interesting movie to debate about.
I can’t wait to read your comment, don’t forget to write which movie you would like us to watch next time (we will proceed to a vote!) and remember to put your email when you comment so you are notified when someone replies to you. The next movie selected will be announced next Sunday!