Greta Gerwig’s Breakthrough Performance in ‘Greenberg’
NOAH BAUMBACH’S new movie is called “Greenberg,” but it is equally maybe even more so the story of Florence Marr. Roger Greenberg, the title character, has the more familiar face by canada goose coats far; he’s played by Ben Stiller, a big movie star sliding comfortably into a small, sharp movie. But Florence’s face canada goose uk black friday is the first one we see. She wanders into the frame pulling a large, slow moving dog and canada goose factory sale is then captured in close up as she negotiates Los Angeles traffic on the way to her job as the household assistant of a well to do family with Canada Goose Jackets a house in the hills.
That face, its soft jaw and wide gray green eyes topped by untameable dirty blond hair, is not likely to be recognized by most viewers. “Greenberg” is obviously a breakthrough for her even if Mr. Baumbach, whose four previous features include expeditionparkaoutlets and Canada Goose Online “The Squid and buy canada goose jacket cheap the Whale,” is not exactly Michael Bay though not necessarily a departure.
Instead, what Ms. Gerwig does in “Greenberg” confirms a suspicion that began to bubble up through the diffidence and indirection of movies like “Hannah Takes the Stairs,” “LOL” and “Nights and Weekends,” all of which she made in collaboration with Joe Swanberg. Ms. Gerwig, most likely without intending to be anything of the kind, may well be the definitive screen actress Canada Goose sale of her generation, a judgment I offer with all sincerity and a measure of ambivalence. She seems to be embarked on a project, however piecemeal and modestly scaled, of redefining just canada goose clearance what it is we talk about when we talk about acting.
Part of her accomplishment is that most of the time she doesn’t seem to be canada goose uk outlet acting at all. The transparency of her performances has less to do with exquisitely refined technique than with the apparent absence of any method. The determined artlessness of Mr. Swanberg’s films the wandering camera and meandering stories, the ground level observations of unfocused young people desultorily negotiating the challenges of romance and friendship is epitomized by Ms. Gerwig, who carries some of the loose, no big deal aesthetic of those movies into “Greenberg.”
She is not the only actress who sets out to explore the particular confusions emotional, professional, expressive facing young, rootless women in 21st century America or who has turned their uninflected, slightly spaced out reticence Canada Goose Parka into a style. Zoe Kazan, in Bradley Rust Gray’s “Exploding Girl,” plumbs her character’s inchoate inner life almost without uttering a complete sentence. Michelle Williams, in Kelly Reichardt’s quietly epochal “Wendy and Lucy,” dramatizes an identity crisis that is societal as well as personal without making a speech or cracking a smile.
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In those cases the viewer is aware and appreciative of a trained and practiced performer using her craft to produce a range of intelligible effects. But Ms. Gerwig, without a background in Hollywood, television or professional theater, is different. She does not carry herself like a would be movie star or sound much like one either. She is more goose than swan a big boned and a little slouchy, indifferent canada goose coats on sale to the imperatives of gracefulness that canadian goose jacket can land you romantic comedy roles and a spot in the Vanity Fair “Young Hollywood” group portrait. When she takes off her clothes which is not infrequently it does not seem teasing or exhibitionistic but disarmingly matter of fact. Her diction is more like what you hear at the next table in the local coffee bar than at the movies. She tends to trail off in midsentence, turn statements into questions or sometimes tangle herself up in a rush of words. She comes across as pretty, smart, hesitant, insecure, confused, determined all at once or in no particular order. Which canada goose clearance sale is to say that she is bracingly, winningly and sometimes gratingly real.
“I don’t like sarcastic fun,” Ms. Gerwig’s character declared in “Nights and Weekends,” which she directed with Mr. Swanberg, and this can be understood as a statement canada goose uk shop of artistic purpose. She will play that’s what acting is but she will also mean what she says.
At one point in “Greenberg,” Florence the misanthropic title character’s on again off again love interest tells Roger a story about a time she pretended to be someone else. It’s a rambling anecdote and at the same time sketchy and incomplete, which is consistent with Florence’s scattered, jumpy self presentation. She Canada Goose Outlet and a friend went out, and while they didn’t entirely assume false identities, they dressed and acted differently more ostentatious, more provocative, maybe a little trashier than usual and ended up going home with some guys who responded to the performance. But then as the night wore on, the two women found themselves trapped in their assumed personas (“we were still, like, being these other girls”) and able to end the charade only by fleeing the scene.
Telling Roger Greenberg about all this, Florence can hardly keep from cracking herself up. Her laughter is partly a way to shake cheap Canada Goose off the intimations of risk and loneliness that shadow her tale, but she is also genuinely tickled by the picture of herself successfully playing an unaccustomed and unlikely role. Her auditor, however, is far from amused. “That’s the stupidest story I’ve ever heard,” Roger says. “What is the point of even telling that story?”
The intensity of his anger takes Florence by surprise, though by now she and the audience have grown accustomed to such outbursts. And the Canada Goose online possible causes of Roger’s furious response are, to say the least, over determined. There is an element of jealousy, of course. Even though their relationship is casual, sporadic and subject to Roger’s mercurial, solipsistic whims uk canada goose outlet and even though their first sexual encounter has canada goose black friday sale already set a new standard for erotic awkwardness on film he turns snappish and possessive whenever Florence’s implied or actual sexual history is mentioned.
Beyond that, Roger is generally a grouch, prone to respond to the possibility of intimacy or the inconvenient fact of other people’s needs with defensiveness, irritation or outright cruelty. He gets mad when he can’t work the seat recliner button on an airplane or when the waiters at a restaurant sing to him on his birthday. Sooner or later something will always set this guy off.
But while he might be bothered at the thought of Florence’s sexual adventurousness, it seems just as likely that he is dismayed that she is capable of pretending to be someone else. Roger, adrift and single at 40, is a failed musician who has returned to Los Angeles from New York in the wake of a nervous breakdown. He is house sitting for his better adjusted brother while Florence, 15 years younger, in effect baby sits for him, answering his panicked phone calls and giving him rides when he needs them. But what he relies on most is her guilelessness, the un self conscious, hesitant sincerity that stands in marked contrast to his own highly defended, hyperarticulate neurosis.
Roger belongs to a generation whose major fashion statement is a protective carapace of irony. That he is also inescapably Ben Stiller, for 20 years a master of the implied air quote and a walking compendium of complications, reinforces the impression that this is a guy who thinks too much. But Florence is a different kind buy canada goose jacket of person, temperamentally and generationally. It isn’t that she is any simpler or less thoughtful than he is, but rather that they don’t share the same cultural references and expectations. Disappointment with love, with professional ambition, with the world as a whole is an experience they share, but while Roger fights against it, Florence seems to accept it as a kind of birthright. apartment, a job she doesn’t hate, an occasional gig singing at a uk canada goose mostly empty nightclub.
Her lack of artifice attracts Roger and also brings the audience to her side, since it’s almost impossible to be on his. canada goose But authenticity, in movies and in life, is never entirely what it seems and is not in itself necessarily enough. The edges and corners of Roger’s personality can Canada Goose Outlet make him hard to take, but Florence’s combination of hesitancy and directness make Florence hard to get a handle on. His demographic cohort, which is also Mr. Baumbach’s, is often accused of glibness, hers of inarticulacy. To see them in collision or in collaboration is to witness intriguing new possibilities of expression opening up.
It will be interesting to see how far Ms. Gerwig can go and also whether the aesthetic she represents will continue to blossom and cross pollinate with other, older strains in American cinema. Her appearance in Mr. Baumbach’s film suggests an intriguing transgenerational entente (as does Mr. Baumbach’s role as an executive producer of Mr. Swanberg’s “Alexander the Last”). Mr. Baumbach, who like Roger Greenberg is 40, carries some Generation X baggage with him from film to film: compulsive pop culture reference making and a fondness for characters whose emotional and cerebral intensity seems at odds with the slackness and indirection of their lives.
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Ms. Gerwig comes from another planet, a parallel demographic and creative universe. She serves, in “Greenberg” and also in the retro cult horror movie “House of the canada goose store Devil”, as the ambassador of a cinematic style that often seems opposed to the very idea of style. Revisiting “Hannah Takes the Stairs” and “Nights and Weekends” after “Greenberg,” you begin to intuit a degree of calculation and craft beneath the spontaneity and sincerity. (You also notice, in her readings of Mr. Baumbach’s carefully rendered dialogue, that she possesses remarkable comic timing.)
Near the end Canada Goose Coats On Sale of “Nights and Weekends,” for example, her character accompanies Mr. Swanberg’s character to a photo shoot. At this point they are broken up, but the photographer assumes they are a couple and directs them to behave as if they were. And Ms. Gerwig, playing someone who is, with great ambivalence, pretending to be someone else, conveys that confusion with poise and commitment. Which is just another way to say that, all appearances to the contrary, she is acting.
People are complicated, and it’s the job of actors to distill that complication cheap canada goose uk without lapsing into caricature or wandering off into vagueness. Ms. Gerwig is certainly up to it, and Florence is the proof. In a more conventional romantic comedy, she would be the flighty, slightly enigmatic object of the protagonist’s longing Zooey Deschanel, maybe, in “(500) Days of Summer.” But Mr. Baumbach’s conception of the character and Ms. Gerwig’s embodiment of it push her in a different direction. The narrative of Greenberg’s gradual emergence from the hard shell of hostility and self loathing in which he has lived for so long is only half the story maybe the less interesting half. Of course he’ll fall in love with her. More intriguing and more risky is what the film demands of Ms. Gerwig. For “Greenberg” to succeed you need to be convinced both that Florence could love Roger and also that she could do better.