In Contention‘s Guy Lodge has called Noah Baumbach‘s Greenberg “a shaggy, often very funny addition to the recent mini-genre of manchild movies.” And Variety‘s Todd McCarthy has termed it “an outstanding L.A. movie.”
“As a study of stasis and of people conscious of not living the lives they had imagined for themselves,” McCarthy continues, “Greenberg offers a bracing undertow of seriousness beneath the deceptively casual, dramatically offhand surface, even if the characters’ vague ambitions and aimless actions leave the film seeming relatively uneventful on a moment-to-moment basis.”
Lodge writes that “Baumbach’s acrid humor has mellowed a little in the California sun, but his preoccupation with the social failings of the chronically self-absorbed is undiminished.”
As Roger, “a fortysomething layabout with undetermined mental issues and a repeatedly stated resolution to “do nothing for awhile,” Ben Stiller “gives this sneakily ingratiating effort a shot at a general audience,” McCarthy notes, “but it will be most appreciated by followers of distinctively flavored, off-center indie-style fare.”
Mumblecore veteran Greta Gerwig “makes her move toward the mainstream with work likely to divide, or at least puzzle, viewers. A big young woman who’s attractive enough but not at all in the usual glamorous-actress mode, she offers no perceptible performance in the popularly received sense; you don’t detect impulse, calculation, yearning, hidden feelings or anything else beneath the surface. She just seems completely real, behaving the way people do, just reacting to things as they happen.
“Either Gerwig is a total natural — most likely — or she has the most invisible technique of any modern actor. Either way, interest will surround her subsequent work.
“Baumbach and co-writer Jennifer Jason Leigh “convey a strong sense of what it’s like to live in [this] city. Except for the opening shots, which seem specifically designed to spotlight Los Angeles at its smoggy worst, Greenberg‘s metropolis is presented from ground level without editorializing and with a fine balance between the beauty and the blight, the ease and the hassle, the luxury and the basic, the stimulating and the banal.”