Some actors are born to play heroes. Ben Stiller? He’s a born asshole.
We’ve spent so long watching him play nice in A-list couplings, it comes as a pleasant surprise to see him lose his temper again: as fans of the former Mr Furious will agree, obnoxiousness and anger always were his strong suits.
Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, an aimless fortysomething and one-time psychiatric patient who’s “trying to do nothing for a while”.
He is, as Buzz Lightyear might say, a sad, strange little man. And yet, despite his lack of direction and contempt for modern society, he returns home to Los Angeles to house-sit for his brother’s family, look after their sick dog and pursue a tumultuous relationship with homehelp Florence, superbly underplayed by Greta Gerwig (The House Of The Devil, Hannah Takes The Stairs).
Writer/director Noah Baumbach, a dab hand at dysfunction (The Squid And The Whale, Margot At The Wedding), is careful to paint Greenberg as a protected, unbalanced soul; one so wounded he can’t help but lash out at those he lets too close.
Quirk is in short supply (though Greenberg’s eloquently worded letters of complaint to major corporations do raise a few laughs) and Baumbach lets scenes play out long after a punchline could offer an exit.
But Stiller expertly manages to eke out a small measure of sympathy from easily his most unpleasant character in years.
You’ll want to give the extras short shrift, though: three featurettes – totalling seven minutes of repetitive PR fluff – that offers a grand total of nothing
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