| Ben Stiller stars as the unlikable title character in this slow-moving observational drama from writer-director Noah Baumbach (“Margot at the Wedding” and “The Squid and the Whale”).
Lefty Roger Greenberg (Stiller) is a self-absorbed narcissist who recently suffered a mental breakdown. Life has not turned out the way he had planned. He agrees to housesit for his more successful, married-with-children brother in Los Angeles.
He has been living in New York City and doesn’t drive anymore. He rants against society and gets his kicks by writing complaint letters. He doesn’t really listen when other people talk. He is a pessimistic cynic whose hatred of mankind can best be defined by his comment that “life is wasted on people.”
It is uncomfortable watching this intensely turgid drivel. You will want to get as far away as possible from this creepy jerk. He comes to rely on and takes sexual advantage of his brother’s pliable personal assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig). They have an affair despite a rather pronounced age difference. They rarely maintain eye contact with one another. It defies any reasonable explanation why she lets him get close to her emotionally and physically.
Real life can be enough of a downer without having to sit through this depressing movie. It shows all the warts and calluses of life. You will find yourself checking your watch repeatedly as boredom takes over during an interminable running time. The dialogue tries to sound intelligent, but it is too smart for its own good.
Stiller is a despicable turnoff and makes you feel nothing. He needs to return to comedy where his nervous ticks are funny. Gerwig wears no makeup and you see every pimple and blemish on her face. She could pass for an ugly version of Kate Winslet. Her repeated bad choices make her unsympathetic to the viewer. Rhys Ifans (“Notting Hill”) is thrown into the mix as another loser who used to be Roger’s best friend when they were in a band together.
Detest may not be a strong enough word to express what surely ranks as the worst movie of 2010. If you choose to ignore this warning, you may want to jump off a cliff after seeing this debacle for yourself at the Glenwood Arts, AMC Studio 30 or the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"