Thursday, 24 June 2010


So I was watching Garden State the other day and I was surprised how much the film has aged. It came from an era where American Independent movies were simply sitcoms with kooky main characters and no canned laughter (see Thumbsucker, Chumscrubber, American Splendor, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno to get my point). Luckily, there were a few filmmakers out there keeping it real (so to speak) in the Indie realm. Most notably is Noah Baumbach, writer and director of the great divorce comedy/tragedy The Squid and the Whale.

Luckily Baumbach hasn't decided to sell his soul to the 'Indie money making machine' just yet, as Greenberg is just as fantastically grounded as TSATW (worst acronym ever), despite the appearance of one of the broadest comedy actors on the planet. As with most films in the mumblecore genre, there is very little to the plot - family goes on holiday, brother (Stiller) looks after their dog, brother starts a relationship with PA of family (Gerwig). And a lot of mumbling in between.

Lets get this out of the way, Stiller is great in this. He severely underplays what could have been a very generic character: the mid-life crisis white male with nervous ticks. On the surface, a shallow and sad individual (highlighted by his painfully awkward attempt at wooing Gerwig's character), but after about an hour you end up liking him. What should have been a universally hated character, becomes a sympathetic and lovable figure because you realise he's just a helpless fool.

But it is Greta Gerwig who really steals the show as the ultra-endearing Florence. Every nuerotic's pin-up girl; beautiful yet self depricating, kooky but not annoying kooky. She compliments Greenberg's sadistic nature and cynicism with an overabundance of positivity and motherly instinct. Don't get me wrong, this is not a romance film. Being half the age of the title character I probably can't identify with some elements of the film, but a lot of the concepts are generally universal: coming to terms with aging and feelings of regret.

What could have been a very contrived 'man turns around life in a weekend' movie is a more complicated character piece about the importance of self-awarness. Good soundtrack too.